Hideous Progeny

By Emily Dendingerhideous progeny by emily dendinger

Directed by Jessica Hutchinson

Produced by Livewire Chicago Theatre

At DCA Storefront Theatre

World premiere melodrama has possibilities

Hideous Progeny, a new play by Emily Dendinger in a world premiere at the downtown DCA Storefront Theatre, has the possibility of becoming a stage worthy piece with some adjustments.  Utilizing a picturesque Victorian manner set (designed by Judy Radovsky and Anders Jacobson) situated in a runway alignment  with audiences sitting on either side of the set makes for an intimate theatrical experience.  That presents a problem for several of the actors who can’t help but have their backs  to part of the audience some of the time.

LiveWire ChicagoTheatre, HideousProgeny

That  begs my pet peeve – actors speaking so softly that we can’t hear them. Hilary Williams (Mary) and Tom McGrath (Shelley) often mumbled so low that I couldn’t hear nor understand what they said. (At the intermission, I asked a friend who was sitting opposite me if he had trouble hearing some of the dialogue. He said ‘yes’ and named the same two actors.) Besides not projecting enough volume,  several cast members raced through their  dialogue speaking too fast and running their words together devoid of emphasis.  This is a pattern (low volume, mumbling, speaking too fast) that is killing many shows today. It is prevalent in young actors (under 40) especially women.  What ever happened to articulation, enunciation and equation?I blame the director.

LiveWire ChicagoTheatre, Hideous ProgenyLiveWire ChicagoTheatre, Hideous Progeny

Hilary Williams, as Mary,  gave a heartfelt performance that was marred by her low volume that strained her performance. Just project more, speak louder and we’ll appreciate your work.  Tom McGrath, as Shelley,  also needs to speak louder and punch out his lines a tad slower.  John Taflan, as Lord Byron,  could  be heard yet he raced through some important dialogue. Just slow down a tad and enunciate more.  Actually, Danielle O’Farrell, screamed and shouted as she over played her scenes. She should cool it a bit. Pat King (Polidori) and Madeline Long (Elise) were spot on terrific.

LiveWire ChicagoTheatre, Hideous Progeny

The reason I mention the above is that Emily Dendinger’s Hideous Progeny contains much intellectual banter, spoken poetry, witty, even salacious dialogue from Lord Byron, Lord Shelley, Mary Shelley and their guests. Much of the spark of the opening dialogue got lost because we couldn’t hear or understand what was being said. This play has much to say. These over educated, egotistical teens have too much time (and money) on their hands. The play centers on an actual weekend event when this group of  pure Romantics challenged each other to a game of who could write the scariest horror or ghost story. It is on this weekend that Mary Shelley conceived her Frankenstein novel.

LiveWire ChicagoTheatre, Hideous Progeny

The play unfolds as a Victorian drawing room melodrama that finds the overlaying relationships between Bryon, Shelley, May and Claire becoming muddled. John Taflan plays Bryon as a insufferable louse, a bossy host, and a total hedonist. Why these folks put up with him is a mystery? Because of his talent, fame and social position? We see the co-dependence of these folks whose Romantic philosophy dictated finding love where you can. Byron and Shelley lived that ethic.  Playwright Emily Dendinger aptly explorers that famous weekend of games and challenges.  Once the cast projects her dialogue better and the pace gets tightened,  Hideous Progeny will become terrific show.  I’m confident those changes will be made so consider spending an evening with the poets.

Recommended

Tom Williams

At DCA Storefront Theater, 66 East Randolph Street, Chicago, IL, call 312-742-8497,thestorefronttheatre.org, tickets $20, $15 seniors/students, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through September 26, 2010