Odradek

By Brett NeveuOdradek by brett neveu

Directed by Dexter Bullard

Produced by The House Theatre of Chicago

At Chopin Theatre

Macabre and expressionist existential horror show is both scary and disturbing

Inspired by the Franz Kafka’s “The Cares of a Family Man” and the Jeff Wall painting “Odradek,” Bret Neveu’s Odradek is part Midwestern Gothic Fairy tale and part thriller. This intriguing and often disturbing work grabs us from the start and keeps us engaged in part from the terrific mood music composed by Josh Schmidt and performed by Ruben Gonzalez on the bass.  Atmosphere rules here.

odradek by brett nevue

The press notes state: “Odradek tells the story of a single father from a small Iowa town who becomes troubled over his son’s declining mental heath. After a visit with a new doctor, the boy returns home and develops an odd friendship with a creature named “Odradek,” a dark, shifting form made of twine and rags that lives under the stairs outside his bedroom. When the boy’s health continues to deteriorate, the father returns to the doctor for further advice and the two enter into a romantic relationship. As his illness progresses, the boy begins to perceive the romance between his father and doctor as an echo of twisted words and hallucinated deeds. Cryptic fantasies become the boy’s stark reality as his life twists towards the shadows of Odradek’s existence, creating a world where the most sinister fairy tale may hold the key to the boy’s only means of mental and physical salvation.”

odradek by brett nevue

The set (by Collette Pollard) features a large, long staircase that hides a monster made up of  rags and twine. This  entity grows as Kyle’s mental health deteriorates as his father (David Parks) struggles to help his demented son.  Kyle’s condition, both physical and mental, slides as he has trouble sleeping and coping with reality. Kyle spends much time on the staircase talking to Odradek. Father and Kyle’s interaction is a search for understanding and common ground by both. Father relies on the Doctor (Carolyn Defrin) to diagnose Kyle’s problem but when she falls for Father, Kyle retreats into a fantasy world of hallucination fueled by the eerie movements and voice of Odradek.  Kyle’s  inability to come to grips with reality – the loss of his mother to divorce and his father’s courtship with his doctor contributes to his problem.

This 85 minute show is a creepy look into the world of insanity played out as a fairy tale more like a Brothers Grimm than Disney  tale.  We see Odradek emerging as a physical threat to Kyle as his body becomes one with the monster. Director Bullard’s production nicely builds the dramatic tension helped by the bass music underscoring. Joe Steakley is most effective as the stoic, cold-blooded teen whose emotional core is stilted and hidden only to be attracted to the obscure monster.

odradek by brett nevue

Odradek is a mesmerizing macabre horror story filled with vague motivations and inexplicable actions that will upset and shake up audiences.   The atmosphere and pace of the show creates an aura of mystery and destruction where Kyle’s ultimate salvation lies with his odd friendship with a growing monster.  This show is imaginative, dark and creepy. It is a provocative and dramatic show that is an imaginative  piece of sinister theatre. It is unlike anything you’re seen on stage.  Don’t miss it.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division Street, Chicago, IL,  call 773-769-3832, www.thehousetheatre.com, tickets $25, $10 Student/Industry available at all performances, Thursdays thru Saturdays 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 85 minutes without intermission, through March 5, 2011.