Directed by Jeremy Wechsler.
At Theater Wit, Chicago.
Theater Wit, Chicago.
What’s in the coffee at Naperville’s Caribou Coffee House?
Playwright Mat Smart writes a suburban-based comedy, Naperville, that is short on laughs and long on wacky, dysfunctional characters. If this collection of weird, flawed, and troubled characters are a sampling of those living in the suburb, let me stay in my Lakeview Chicago neighborhood. I don’t want to catch what they have. Maybe its the water or something Caribou coffee?
We meet the cast of dysfunctional characters: Anne (Abby Pierce) – too-fast talking woman who is trying to write a podcast about Captain Joseph Naper, the founder of Naperville. Why? We never find out. She writes notes on Caribou napkins until the wacky, also too-fast talking barista TC (Andrew Jessop) brings her blank typing paper. Both of these strange folks rattle off their background info so fast, they were largely impossible to understand. Why actors continue to speak rapidly and run their words together is a mystery?
Enter Candice (Laura T. Fisher) and her son Howard (Mike Tepeli), the blind middle aged woman and her son. . Candice demands that she gets her ‘table’ near the fireplace – the one she ‘always’ sits at during her many visits to Caribou. Anne quickly moves to accommodate Candice. Candice’s unique late -coffee order is a challenge for JC the new Caribou manager.
Just as Howard is arguing with his mother who is defending her personal independence despite her recent blindness, Roy (Charles Strater) arrives and he greets Candice like his long-lost mother? His strange friendliness and his many religious references makes him appear like a religious nut to Howard- ever protective of his mother.
Naperville turns into a cable TV original play filled with playwright invented wacky characters who seem to play out their problems through too much caffeine. Candice wants to sail and cut her grass despite her blindness. Howard quits his job in Seattle as he feels he needs to move back to Naperville to help his mother. Howard discovers that Anne is an old high school classmate that he had a crush on; Anne realizes the Howard (fifty pounds lighter) was her class mate. Sparks could fly?
After several long scenes of wacky dysfunctional actions by these folks including Anne barricading herself in the coffee houses washroom and Roy taking Candice for coffee just before 10 pm and JC blasting away on his clarinet, this contrived and tedious one-act play has all five characters participating into a symbolic dream fantasy of sailing on Lake Michigan started after Roy’s explanation of his ‘game.’ Anne’s podcast recording helps get this scene going.
I never for a moment relate to any of these weird characters as they come off as playwright inventions that don’t represent actual suburban folks. Howard is the only one I could relate to, the rest are cliched-ridden weirdos. The last scene stretches credulity and made me wish this play would end. I’m not sure who the audience is for Naperville? There are few laughs and contrived situations that seem to hint that something is making Naperville folks strange? Most of the performances were a tad over the top. Only Mike Tepeli, as Howard, was credible. Maybe suburban folks will relate to Naperville, maybe?
At Theater Wit, 1229W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-975-8150, www.theaterwit.org, tickets $12 – $36, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2pm, running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes without intermission, through October 16, 2016.