Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

Parlour Song

By Jez Butterworth
Directed by Robin Witt
At Steep Theatre

Parlour Song

“It’s not that he can’t sleep. It’s that he’s afraid to. See, I’m no expert, but from where I stand, the problem, Ned’s problem’s dreams. . . You always knew if he’d had the dream, the night before, because all the next day he was yellow. Jumpier than a crow on roadkill. His solution? Don’t sleep. White knuckle it.” — Dale from Parlour Song

Provocative Pinteresque work by Jez Butterworth (Mojo, The Night Heron), Parlour Song is a most worthy domestic drama now at Steep Theatre. Butterworth’s lyrical language contains rich imagery and telling character traits. In the hands of three terrific actors—Alex Gilmor as Dale, Tim Curtis as Ned and Julia Siple as Joy, Parlour Song is a relationship drama with a mystery element and a few surprises.

Ned is in a loveless and sexless marriage with Joy. Ned is a lonely man whose work as a demolition tech finds him blowing up things. He bores his neighbor and friend Dale with his videos of past blasts (excellent videos by Jim Poole). Dales tries to perk up Ned who desperately wants to get in better physical shape. When personal items start disappearing from Ned’s most secure suburban home, Ned suspects Joy. He tries to rekindle their sexless life to no avail. Dale soon beds Joy for sexual variety from his wife.

Parlour Song is the story of three 30-something people who find themselves suddenly in trouble because their unfulfilled dreams turn into nightmares. This is a subtle story quite psychological—especially for Ned who seems to be emotionally coming apart as he is troubled with a frightening reoccurring dream that doesn’t allow him to sleep. Parlour Song is a gem of a play rich in poetic language with suspense and character development. Tim Curtis was particularly strong and Julia Sipe’s nuanced unspoken moments were effective. Alex Gillmor communicates Butterworth’s irony with charm and aplomb. Director Robin Witt keeps the tension mounting on Marcus Stephens’ fine set. Parlour Song is an intelligent, well crafted work that hooks us early and delivers a new twist on crumbling relations. It is 90 minutes of fine theatre.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn Ave., Chicago, IL, call 312-458-0722,, tickets $18, Thursdays thru Saturdays a 8 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission.

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