By Carlos Murillo
Directed by Margot Bordelon
Produced by Theatre Seven of Chicago
At Chicago Dramatists Theatre
Smart murder mystery a stinging parody of realty TV, film and documentaries
Carlos Murillo’s Chicago premiere of Mimesophobia (or before and after) – defined as “the morbid fear of slavish imitation.” Murillo’s overwritten work suffers from him trying to use too many styles. The work is framed as a reality TV show, documentary re-enactment description of a film script and a murder mystery all rolled into a 100 minute show. The result is a theatrical exercise that is an intelligent, funny satirical look into the American obsession with violence. Our voyeuristic instincts make murder and the cult of celebrity into a fun spectator sport that we can’t get enough of.
Despite the long opening monologues by the work’s twin narrators Brian (Brian Golden) and Jessica Thigpen (Jessica/Beth – the mother), Mimesophobia unravels as part murder mystery, part reality TV show with a glimpse into the creation of a film by Henry (Michael Salinas) and Aaron (Brian Stojak). Playwright Murillo structures much of the work using a film script description complete with camera shot directions. This effectively paints the action in our minds eye as it evokes humor and wit from the camera point of view.
The work dodges between Hollywood and Hyde Park Chicago as it tracks one family’s tragedy. Henry and Aaron want to cash-in with a film while Cassy (Cassandra Sanders) wants to reconstruct her murdered sister Shawn’s (Cyd Blakewell) diary in order to solve her murder. The work demands our full attention as it moves briskly between forms to tell the story. Sprinkles of wit, satire and raw humor propel this challenging work.
The journey into our obsession with our ‘need-to-know’ mindset contains much spot-on timing and verbal acumen from the entire cast – especially Brian Golden, Jessica Thigpen and Cyd Blakewell. The media, the message, the facts, and the need to be dramatic converge to make us question why we feel the need to open doors we know are better left unopened? And why do we consider that to be worthy entertainment?
The parody of film making and the satire of TV recreations works well here. This provocative play has many levels of meaning that contain cautionary elements about contemporary entertainment. Theatre Seven Chicago has a fast paced, well performed show that risks information overload but ultimately delivers a troubling commentary. It is well work seeing.
At Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL, call 773-853-3158, tickets $12 – $24, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 100 minutes with intermission, through April 4, 2010