The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, now in its second year, is a new-works festival produced by Underscore Theatre company. We created CMTF for one reason: there’s a wealth of musical theatre creators and performers in Chicago, but the high risks of producing new musicals means that few companies are willing to take a chance, especially on new authors. CMTF is designed from the ground up to showcase Chicago’s emerging musical theatre creator community, and this year’s festival features 13 brand-spankin new musicals!
A young woman’s distant relative has passed away, and she is summoned to the rural Georgia town of Marble, home of the mythic Georgia Guidestones. When she arrives, the mystery of the Guidestones teaches her more about her family and herself than she ever imagined.
The Georgia Guidestones are real, although the town of Marble appears to be a device of this work of . . . existential fiction? Meta-theatre? Trolling? Well, no, Marble, GA is too funny to be called trolling, as long as you don’t approach it with any expectation of traditional storytelling. The plot is that a young woman, also one of our actor/musician/writers, must travel to Marble in order to learn more about the Guidestones which her uncle possibly had a role in building, in order to finish the exposition and resolve her own search for meaning. Accompanying her are her friends, who are also both the creators and characters in this play, and a mysterious narrator, who everybody is aware of, but nobody else recognizes. Along the way, we are treated to musing on the nature of monuments in an NPR show, puppets arguing over earth and law, and parodies of dramaturgy involving the world’s biggest rubix cube, among other delights. The music mostly takes the form of radio jingles, comedic anthems, and occasionally, gospel/country mediations on death. The cast is energetic, multi-talented, and amusing, but is so tied to the script, I’m not sure if Duplicity Ensemble intends for this show to be revived in the future, or is experimenting with their devising techniques. Their sense of humor is rather distinctive and requires anyone thinking of mounting this show to be quite clear about which audience they’re targeting, but I appreciated the performers’ cleverness and virtuosity.
For more information, see CMTF’s website.
Playing at The Den Theatre, 1333 N Milwaukee Ave. Performs July 19 at 2:00 pm.