Written by Amanda Batterson, Kasey O’Brien,
Jay Cullen and Alberto Mendoza
As the opening act for One Night Only
At The Den, Chicago
The cavernous space at 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., in Chicago’s Wicker Park sure has potential as the owners continue to make upgrades and establish the space with a series of intimate theatre venues. Presently, without AC in one of their theatres, seeing a show there is an adventure in endurance. And so is the current production to rent The Den –a join venture with timesthreechicago.com and abrahamwerewolf.com that becomes either a late early show or an early late-night show with a curious 9:30 start time.
I must admit that I’m don’t review too many late-night productions since they are geared to the 20/30somethings leaving us grays scratching our heads as to what is going on in these provocative endeavors. But, in August pickings are slim and my curiosity got the best of me, so I ventured out to Wicker Park. Wow!
Let me start by stating that the two shows lasted 2 hours and 25 minutes with a 15 minute intermission. That seems a tad too long for a late-night production. Plus there are two distinct shows presented.
The evening opens with Vonnegut’s Shorts by the folks at timesthreechicago.com. Billed as based on the writings of Kurt Vonnegut, this wildly erratic piece of experimental theatre is an hour-long series of short sketches that are suppose to reflect Vonnegut’s political views of the world. The satire wears thin, the humor muted as two of the shorts don’t fit into the cautionary theme Vonnegut is pushing. “Looking At The Birdie” and “Fubar” seem out of place with “Ants” and “Euphio.” Clocking in at over an hour, this wacky, paranoid- induced show moves from subtle satire to outright silliness especially when the cast gets a dose of the mood-altering voice of nothingness from the euphio phone. Containing weak acting and too much movement of props, Vonnegut’s Shorts plays tediously long.
The second show, One Night Only, “was developed by the cast and director using “found” text and music. Sources include Priscilla Ahn, Howard Barker (THE CASTLE and DEATH, THE ONE AND THE ART OF THEATRE), Battles, BLUE VALENTINE, Charles Bukowski, Ian Paul Custer, Hall & Oates, Matt Hooks, THE NOTEBOOK, Kasey O’Brien, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Sam Cooke & the Soul Stirrers, and Scott Walker.” –so states the program.
I found that the most interesting thing happening on stage was watching Sierra Dufault deftly paint a mural depicting the action and mood of the show. The blending of music, poor singing and over-the-top acting combined with manic movements including shaking, repetitious hugging and wild stomping, jumping, running in circles made my head spin. This strange work seems to be about a strained relationship between one boy and one girl with an affair looming with the other boy and the girl. (I’d name names but since there are no photos with names, I have no clues who played who?). Ian Paul Custer, Matt Hooks and Kasey O’Brien are listed as cast members. The blend of recorded music with spoken poetry with horrible singing and all that physical movement came across as a frantic attempt to be different for difference’s sake.
While I support theatre troupes who take chances and try to stretch things theatrically, they must keep in mind that there must be at least a thread of coherence in their productions. These show tried to do too much. If you can get the audience to relate and/or like the characters, they’ll follow you wherever you want – but-both shows failed to to reach their audiences. Even with the theatre packed full of friends of the cast on opening night, little laughter was heard. Before either show was finished, boredom took over the audience. Too bad since the cast of each show enthusiastically tried to entertain. Sometimes trying too hard just doesn’t work. That can happen with ensemble created and performed work. They have fun but their audience doesn’t. I’m not sure who the audience is for these shows? Other advocates of experimental, late-night firing theatre? I’m not sure?
Talk theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: August 12, 2011
At The Den, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL. tickets $12, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 9:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 25 minutes with intermission, through August 28, 2011