REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams


By Simon Stephenssteep theatre

Directed by Robin Witt

At Steep Theatre, Chicago

Disjointed anti-war drama focuses on violence, hopelessness and despair

Steep Theatre, over the last few years have featured plays by contemporary British playwrights. They like Simon Stephens’ Harper Regan and Pornography so much they successfully mounted them. Now they take on his 2005 work, written over a four day period, Motortown. This is a stark, violent drama that many audience members will find displeasing. At the performance I attended, one rude patron stormed out crossing  the set in total disregard for the moment. Please learn about the basics of a show before attending so not to ruin the moment for the entire audience.

steep theatre

Motortown is a 90 minute journey into the abbess of a psychopathic soldier who returns from the Iraq war isolated, desperate and hopeless. Danny is also a self-proclaimed squaddie (A member of the armed forces who thinks he’s the “Gods gift to women”). Danny is determined to win back his old girlfriend Marley (Julie Siple) but she is fearful of Danny since he sent her weird letters from Iraq. Her rejection send him on a downward spiral of  violence and despair. steep theatre Danny’s journey involves a series of strange scenes that makes me wonder what playwright Stephens was thinking.

First, there is the perplexing relationship between Danny and is anal-retentive brother lee (Chris Shmelik that find lee doting on Danny. Next, Danny purchases as pellet gun from a philosophical spouting old friend then he , somehow, finds a wound-too-tight gunsmith Paul (Peter Moore) who miraculously turn the pelt gun into a bullet shooting gun. Strange.  Paul has a 14 year old black girl with him that Danny covets. Of course, Danny ends up kidnapping the girl with dire consequences.

Next, Danny ends up in a bar where he meets a married couple, Justin (Alex Gillmor) and Helen (Kendra Thulin). After buying Dannya a beer, they invite him to swing sexually with them. Strange. There is another scene between Lee and Danny. Enough said.

Motortown is a weirdly intoxicating drama that will upset some and get others to wonder why it was written and why Steep Theatre chose to mount it? It is quite in the spirit of Brecht with psychological and homoerotic undertones. It sure dramatizes how war can either bring out or enhance the madness in a soldier. You’ll be moved and disturbed by Motortown. Be warned, it is only for tough theatre patrons.


Tom Williams

Talk theatre in Chicago podcast

Date reviewed: October 4, 2013

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Motortown page at

At Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn, Chicago, IL,, tickets $20 – $22, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through November 9, 2013

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