REVIEWSTheatre Reviews

Dental Society Midwinter Meeting

Written by Laura JacqminDental Society midwest meeting

Directed by Megan Shuchman

Produced by At Play Productions

At Chicago Dramatists

Enjoyable Randomness

Dental Society Midwinter Meeting keeps you laughing, but Laura Jacqmin’s new play needs some tweaks in order to get the audience to care about what is happening on stage.  Surrounded by talent in all aspects of the production and supported with clever excessively descriptive writing, this one act, eighty minute play follows a mundane Dental Convention with a Dental Society shaken by a crisis, and relates it to the way we all tend to deal with moral dilemmas that we face.

Dental Society midwinter meeti

Introducing the play several dentists come out one by one and explain to us the crisis of confidence affecting the Dental Society.  The President of the Dental Society has been caught cheating on his wife with his much younger Dental Hygienist, a perky platinum blond with seemingly fake breasts played by the perfectly casted Rhonda Marie Bynum, and worst of all he allowed her to perform multiple unauthorized procedures.

Dental Society midwinter meeti

At the Dental Society Midwinter Meeting in the Skokie Marriott, several dentist gossip and judge the Dental Society’s President and his young assistant.  Through all there talking, and more talking, we also see the dentists face their own moral problems due to fraud and other shady business ventures.  Sex (or close sexual encounters) and a whole lot of drinking take up most of the dentists free time.  Like most of us who have attended these large work conventions, the dentists dread attending the actual seminars.

Dental Society midwinter meeti

Watching the ordinary professionals in a non dramatic career seems pointless, but the significance is that the people in the play can be anyone of us.  We all understand the temptations to take short cuts to success.  Where do we draw the line, and is society as much to blame as the individual?  Through out the play there is a lot of talking about how to fix the crisis affecting the respectability of their profession, but very little action is done to truly make a difference.  Just like the society we live in, we discuss the changes we wish to make in order to better ourselves and the world around us, but daily routine seems to interfere and cause us to forget our moral motivations.  We want strive to be better people when we go to bed, but are right back when we started by lunch time.  Dental Society Midwinter Meeting makes a big joke out of people’s lack of moral conviction, while delivering a truthful message in between the laughs.

The obstacle in the way of Jacqmin’s play connects with the audience is not that the play follows such an ordinary career as Dentistry (in fact, I love the randomness,) it is that even with such descriptive scenes and developed depth within each main character, nothing ever gets the audience to empathize or relate to the people on stage until the end of the play.  The monologues were “on,” naturally off-kilter, and funny because of it.  They can be lengthy, but so is a rant.  I just never felt anything for the characters saying them.  Scenes with the group conversing, especially the swimming pool scene in which the dentists are in imaginative bathing suits, and when the men are talking about women in general while browsing the L. L. Bean in Old Orchard Mall, stand out as creative hits.

In the beginning of the play, when the audience is being informed on the crisis at hand, breaking the forth wall and talking directly to the audience was a neat way to get our attention, but too many different characters broke the forth wall.  I enjoy it when one or two characters break theatrical rules and talk directly to the audience.  It can be a witty way to engage the viewer and move the plot forward, but there were so many scenarios where this gimmick was used that it lost its impact, and felt like witnessing a theatrical exercise.

Megan Shuchman’s Directing is creatively crisp.  With Dentists kickin’ it to karaoke, Shuchman creates a musical scene that tops any TV show opening and you can’t help but be entertained by the talent on stage.  I enjoyed the change when the first speaker came out into the audience.  It gives the patron a unique viewpoint, but once was enough.  The second time was lengthy and frankly, it is uncomfortable to turn around that long in your seat.

The creativity in casting fits perfectly with the imaginative acting on stage.  The whole ensemble is talented, and has a charming chemistry.  Dana Black and Justin James Farley stood out as my favorites.  Dana Black’s commitment to her many characters drew my attention throughout the play.  She owned the scenes she spoke in, and her attention to the details of her characters brought chuckles without her having to do much more change her facial expression.  Farley comes off so naturally real, that everything he says was funny to me.  This is the second time I have seen him on stage, and both times I have left the play saying to my guest that “he is a great actor.”

Dental Society Midwinter Meeting felt as random as the title is, but that is part of the fun.  The play needs to develop a stronger reason for the audience to care about the dentists on stage, but the viewer might laugh enough to not care.  This is the work of an extremely talented group of performers and technical team.  It is a work in progress, but one worth seeing now.

Somewhat Recommended

By Timothy McGuire

For full show information, check out the Dental Society Midwinter Meeting page at TheatreInChicago.

At Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave., runs through August 7th, playing Wednesdays through Saturday at 8:00pm.  Tickets are $20-$25.

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