Theatre Reviews


at the Side Project Studio

Produced by Tympanic Theatre Company

At Side Project Studio

In the category of storefront productions way-far-off loop, the occasional theatrical gem awaits discovery by the discerning eye. Musing, Amy Whittenberger’s new play about just how far someone will go to get ahead, is not exactly such a gem, but there is enough of a spark to the no-budget show and to the energetic young company that is producing it to make it worth the trip to Rogers Park – at least for those who prize originality and energy.

Loosely, Musing tells the story of Norman (Evan Asher), a car salesman who, to his surprise, discovers that his professional success is due entirely to Olga (Ariel M. Trocino) a leper-faced muse with a bizarre fashion sense who has been living under his bed for years. I couldn’t quite piece together why the supposedly successful Norman seems to live in a one-room apartment with only a single bed. I think it must be the loser-in-general status that goes with his career choice, but whatever the reason, the guy lives there and he hasn’t looked under that bed since he was six. Olga resides below and she can give him whatever he wants, but there is a price. And Olga is not the sort of muse one can ignore.

If you can accept the premise thus far, the transformation of the single bed into, say a 2009 Honda Accord or a Japanese restaurant, shouldn’t bother you too much either. Believe it or not, the young cast – mostly recent college grads from Florida – manage to pull off these impossible illusions along with on stage-costume changes with a confident “so-what?” that is so nonchalant that it works. The attitude is irreverent, but the at times over-the-top humor belies a dark turn of events in the second act that gives the young playwright’s work an unexpected punch. Trocino is super as the sad, but evil Olga. Her enthusiastic approach to some of Olga’s funny moments is somewhat uncontrolled, but she nails Olga’s frustration over perennially standing in the shadow of Norman as he takes all credit for all that she does. Asher’s portrayal of the difficult Norman is sympathetic and credible. Oklahoma transplant Joshua Harris, who plays Norman’s boss Phil, is a newcomer to Chicago’s professional stage and someone I expect you will hear more about.

Musing is unapologetically what it is: an original work from a young playwright, produced by a still novice company without much money, in a space that is as minimal as it gets. Within that context, this is a rather good show. I particularly like that Musing does not rely on shock value to get its edge. It is a serious work from an ensemble that hides nothing and it provides the sort of offbeat evening that is perfect for going one-up with an offbeat friend.


Randy Hardwick

At Side Project Studio, 1520 W. Jarvis Ave., Chicago, IL, tickets $12, Thursday-Saturday at 8:00 p.m., running time is 1 hour, 40 minutes with one intermission, through May 23, 2009

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