By Alastair Reynolds.
Adapted by Althos Low.
Directed by Nathan Allen.
Produced by The House Theatre of Chicago.
At Chopin Theatre, Chicago.
SCI-FI thriller becomes incomprehensible theatre in stage production.
Science Fiction is difficult to mount on stage due to technical challenges. The House Theatre of Chicago has produced several stage-worthy whimsical SCI-FI productions over the years but Diamond Dogs is not one of them. Rather it is a “hard sci-fi’ style that necessitates more rigorous science and dystopian atmosphere of pessimism. With much tech-speak dialogue, Diamond Dogs quickly becomes hard to follow leading to boredom.
Add the staging problems like having the thrust stage built too high that produces bad sight-lines for much of the audience and the difficulty comprehending the action is enhanced. The lack of movement or action slows down the work. Let me try to explain what I saw. First, let me state that I’d not a sci-fi fan and this “hard sci-fi” is totally alien to me. I got lost in the early dialogue trying to set up the adventure for the characters.
Diamond Dogs is set in the 26th century with a team of human scientists and soldiers as they investigate a mysterious alien tower that seems to brutally punish all intruders. These characters must uncover clues and solve puzzles in order to solve the mystery. Each character will make dangerous sacrifices to get to the top of the tower. These thoughts come from the press notes as I quickly got confused as to what and why things were happening.
The cast: Chris Hainsworth (Childe, a villain) John Henry Roberts (Swift, the narrator). Elaine Elyce (Hirz, raw adventurer), Katherine Keberlein, Celestine, Swift’s former wife), Abu Anseri ( Forqueray, the group leader), Joey Dteakley (Trintignant-a masked creature), each work hard with the strange complex and poorly staged thriller. The unique human limb puppets resemble albumin foil as arms and legs.
I never understood what all the movements by the characters through the arched doorways was for until someone a day later explained to me that was how the cast moved up to the top of the tower. That is an example of how difficult Diamond Dogs was to follow. I wonder just who is the target audience for this show? Maybe fans of sci-fi, especially fans of Alastair Reynolds and fans of “hard sci-fi will find this play worthy? The lighting effects by Lee Keenan were excellent adding eye-popping scenes. Too bad that only happened late in the show after most audience patrons had zoned-out on the play. Unfortunately, for once The House Theatre of Chicago, Diamond Dogs simply didn’t work on stage for general audiences.
At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, Chicago, IL, call 773-769-3832, www.thehousetheatre.com tickets $30 – $35, Thursdays-Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through March 5, 2017.