Produced by Marry-Arrchie Theatre
At Angel Island Theatre
Perplexing theatrical experience awaits
When I was younger, I knew that I hated macaroni and cheese. It didn’t matter that I never tasted mac and cheese. It only mattered that I hated cheese. When I found out I would be reviewing a Beckett play, I “knew” I would hate it since I’m not a fan of absurdism. Jennifer Markowitz, (the director of this Beckett work) has taught me, that things you think you hate can surprise you.
This is an anthology comprised of six of Samuel Beckett’s short plays. There is no discernible plot (why would there be? It’s Beckett). Each short play shares a common theme of perception, particularly what we can and cannot see.
One short play involved a blind man meeting a beggar. Another involved three women completely surrounded in darkness, gossiping about each other behind their backs.
Another involved three people being turned into what I can only be described as human bongos (seriously). They are interrogated by a light that only focused on one actor at a time.
The last short play was the most technically ambitious. While it only particularly worked, it was impressive to witness actors working adamantly.
Since there are no plots, those searching for dramas with a beginning, middle and end, will not find that here., Still there are loads to like in this 90 minute show.
I questioned the staging, particularly the choice of where to seat the audience. Several members of the audience were literally on the stage. But director Markowitz’s intent probably was to make at least a third of the audience not be able to see parts of the action at times. This made the audience share the sense of confusion that the characters on exhibited. The lighting was effective. No colors or gels were employed. That stark lighting fits Beckett’s minimalist style perfectly. The choice to make it difficult for the audience to see some of the action was annoying. I noticed several members of the audience tune out the show wishing it would end soon. Somehow, I relished in their discomfort.
The performers were effective at playing their multiple roles. Rudy Galvan easily gave off the impression that he clearly enjoyed playing his ridiculous characters. Galvan gave appropriate energy to each character he played. Stephen Walker‘s confidence immediately grabs) our attention. He screamed or “shouted when he portrayed anger, but he knew how to work the audience. At times both Walker and Galvan were playing for laughs rather than carrying proper dramatic weight; An interesting that worked. Adam Soule was the most facially expressive actor in the show. It helped that he had a lamp inches from his face in his big scenes. Often, he spoke too fast as he was a tad too anxious.
I really wish the women were given larger roles here, because they were terrific Alas, I guess a Beckett play is no place for feminism?. All three female performers were effective and unique in delivering their material that I couldn’t wait for the next time they were on stage. In one of the plays, where all three women were surrounded in darkness, Molly Fisher engaged me with her mischievous smile. Too bad we didn’t see more of her. Lauren Guglielmello knew how to bring out the darkly comedic aspects of her character, particularly in the last bongo scene. I look forward to seeing her in the future. Kathrynne Wolf was the most confidently prepared performer. In her performance, I was watching a character rather than an actor playing someone else. This lady is a professional as she played her characters straight no matter how ridiculous the situations. She impressed me!
Who is the audience for this? If you like stories with a beginning, middle and end then this isn’t for you. But if you enjoy a show with strong, confident performers creating art then you should see this show. I may be in the minority by liking this show but that is my view. I’m a new kid from North Carolina with an opinion to share. My first play in Chicago makes me want more. Now, I’m going to try some macaroni and cheese for the first time in 20 years.
For more info checkout the Hellish Half page at theatreinchicago.com
At Angel Island, 731 W. Sheridan, Chicago, call 773-871-0442, tickets $25, $20 student/seniors, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through August 30, 2014