Directed by Scott Weinstein
At The Side Project, Chicago
Haunting drama about dependency is a tedious affair
In it’s Chicago premiere, Christine Whitley’s Miles Away takes its cues from the classic pool hustling films: The Hustler and The Color of Money. Set in a seedy motel somewhere, we meet Sissy (Isabel Ellison) and Ron (Josh Odor) two pool hustlers holed up trying to arrange pool games in a dwindling gambling market since the Internet is killing their action. It seems that word is out that Sissy is an unbeatable pool player. The are broke and desperate as they play a continuing game of love-hate as they struggle with each other and their demons.
Sissy and Ron are two ultimate “losers” despite Sissy being a fabulous pool player and Ron being a hustler/game arranger. They are lovers caught in a spiraling co-dependency that is fueled by their low expectations of life and their basic ignorance. Ron wants a better hotel with a better bed and Chinese food rather than hamburgers. Sissy pines for another drug fix and she wants to be called “Grace” when she changes her identity. Much of the this 90 minute one act consists of the two stubborn folks arguing and defying each other over trivial things as they prepare to meet a potential “stake-horse” willing to arrange big money pool games. Both are desperate as they want out of their miserable life they have together. Sissy constantly threatens to leave as she packs her things, leaves the room only to return in a few minutes. Ron constantly orders, cajoles, and intimidates (with fear and physicality) Sissy’s every move. She counters with defiance and a few snorts of heroin.
The constant and repetitious arguments wears thin as this part of they play could use a faster pace and a few judicious cuts as we get the point of desperation, contradiction and dependency. Isabel Ellison deftly presents the various sides of Sissy from her smart, confident pool hustler to her weakness toward life as she ultimately gives in to Ron’s control. Ron is the controlling guy who constantly swills gin as his ego deludes him into believing he is a smart manipulator. The two are on a self destructive quest that comes to a head when they finally meet with Giles (Dan Wilson) their nerdy stake horse. I’ll not reveal more so as not to spoil the story.
The twists and events sure contribute to making these hustlers losers but will Sissy finally get the nerve to leave? See this well acted show to find out. Is there poisonous relationship strong enough to endure? The haunting characters are effectively presented as playwright Whitley captures the mood of desperation that traps these folks into the limited world of hustling. The pity is that they don’t know anything else. Josh Odor’s performance anchors this dark drama.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: August 6, 2014
For more info checkout the Miles Away page at theatreinchicago.com
At The Side Project, 1439 W. Jarvis, Chicago, IL, call 773-340-0140, www.thesideproject.net, tickets $20, Sundays thru Wednesdays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 3pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through August 31, 2014