Picture Imperfect

By Joel Z. Cornfield & Richard James ZiemanAthenaeum-Website-Part-2

Directed by Michael Stults

Produced by Bread & Roses productions

At the Athenaeum Theatre, Chicago

Poor acting and a poor script make for a long 1 hour, 45 minute show

I’m not sure what Picture Imperfect is really about. The press notes mention an autistic son, Cole (deftly played by seventh-grader Izzy Tortuga), but I found the drama was really about the delusional mother, Mary Thomas (the wound-too-tight Sarah Bright).  Mary is a neurotic mother who fights and argues with everyone around her as she struggles to get back to her “perfect” family when her husband was still there and oldest son Eric (Jamie McKinney) were together with there youngest son, Cole.

We see Mary as a argumentative mother, nervous and jumpy as she waits for the social worker Susan Bolin (Katherine  Bellantone) to return with Cole as she struggles to get him back into the family. The state questions Mary’s ability to raise Cole as he requires special care due to his autism. We see Mary verbally fighting with Eric and with Susan and we don’t understand why Mary is so jumpy? Sarah Bright’s over acting renders her becoming a shrew that we quickly dislike.

Sarah Bright & Izadorius Tortuga

The loud arguments with Mary and Eric and Mary and Susan are filled with bland, repetitive dialogue that comes off as more ‘playwright-speak’ that realistic dialogue. I just don’t understand Mary’s temperament and I don’t believe that a social worker would take Mary’s guff as she would simply file for the state to take Cole away from such a mother.

And we also don’t believe that the estranged husband George (Jeffrey Brown) would, all of a sudden, scheme to steal  his son Cole’s paintings to pay his gambling debts. Why after four years does he decide to sweet-talk his ex in order to con her into giving up the paintings? We see a pistol and guess what? We also learn the Eric died of an overdose so that when we see Eric, he exists only in Mary’s mind. I resent that attempt to fool us without proper hints.

Young Izzy Tortuga is excellent as the autistic boy painter. He alone gave a worthy performance. The script is shallow, cliche-ridden, and predictable and the performances  were amateurish. Too bad the play wasn’t more about autism but it is a weak script in the hands of a group of inexperienced actors. It comes off as a vanity project.

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: March 6, 2015

For more info checkout the Picture Imperfect page at theatreinchicago.com

At the Athenaeum Theatre 2936 N. Southport, Chicago, IL, call 773-935-6875, www.athenaeumtheatre.org, tickets $30, $20 seniors/students, Thursdays, Fridays 7 Saturdays at 7:3 pm, Sundays at 2pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through April 4, 2015