By Andrew Burden Swanson
Directed by Gus Menary
Produced by Jackalope Theatre Company
At EP Theater
Tight, well-focused writing fuels Moonshiner
Twenty-one year old Andrew Burden Swanson, a Columbia College student, has penned his second drama–Moonshiner–his finest work to date. This kid can write! In homage to Of Mice and Men, with hints of Desire Under Elms, Moonshiner comes across as a period piece peering back to the dark days of the Prohibition Era of the 1930’s. We are in Appalachia, East Tennessee, where the production and distribution of moonshine was a cottage industry.
Dwayne (Bill Hyland) runs a small still and distribution center for the illegal booze that employs Carl (Chris Chmelik) as one of his delivery men. One night, while driving fast down rural back-hills roads without using his car lights, Carl suddenly hits something in the road. This incident weaves a spiraling series of events that can potentially lead to Carl’s demise. His blind cousin (and roommate), Issac (Jeremy Kahn in a fabulous performance) is an insightful artist whose power to “see” events (such as that accident) without knowledge of its meaning sets the stage for panic and fatalistic results. Swanson has weaved a fine character study with a psychological drama that expertly deals with guilt, family loyalty and personal integrity. Without giving away more, let me state that Moonshiner is worth the ride to Pilsen. The story is tightly drawn and plausible.
The development of Andrew Burden Swanson as a storyteller and playwright is on track towards making this young man into a writer of note. Moonshiner is a first-class play deserving of an audience. A new voice is beginning to be heard. Jeremy Kahn and Chris Chmelik, as Isaac and Carl, gave powerfully emotional wrenching performances.
At EP Theatre, 1830 S. Halsted, chicago, IL, Call 773-942-6150, www.jackalopetheatre.org, tickets $15, $10 students, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through August 29, 2009