Theatre ReviewsTom Williams


By Penny Pennistonspin by penniston at theater wit

Directed by Jeremy Wechsler

At Theater Wit (formerly Bailiwick Arts)

Smart modern-day farce fuels the opening of  a wonderful refurbished theatre complex

Jeremy Wechsler has finally realized his dream to have a new, audience friendly and actor likable theatre complex consisting of 3- 99 seat theatres on Belmont Avenue (1229 w.)  His Theater Wit building is modern, functional and a major asset to the Chicago theatre community.  Kudos!

Wechsler’s initial production is the world premiere of Penny Penniston’s Spin – a whirlwind contemporary farce set in the world of multimedia advertising.  Spin is intelligent, witty with biting satire and funny moments complete with sharp one-liners and retorts.  Penniston’s script is rich in fully developed characters living the struggles of  our manic world of consumerist culture. Penniston has much to say in Spin.

spin by penniston at theater wit

Spin finds Brent (the sincere Coburn Goss) ‘spinning’ out of his world of advertising into a personal re-examination of his life’s purpose aided by Buddhist beliefs.  He tries to become a ‘better man’ by giving up material things while aiding a homeless girl- Danielle (Alice Wedoff) by taking her away from her abusive boyfriend – Aaron (Michael Kessler), a want-to-be anarchist. Brent takes Danielle to his Lincoln Park condo as part of his mission of mercy. Danielle is a ‘survivor’ who usually gets her way despite her youth.

spin by penniston at theater wit

Enter Redge (the commanding Joe Foust) and his aid – Jack ( the droll Lance Baker). These two advertising pitch-men are working on a major campaign for a beer company. They need Brent’s ideas.  Brent resists at first but his creative juices need satisfying and his  love of the advertising game overwhelm him. The three brainstorm a beer campaign involving African-American tennis star Ruby Jones (Austin Talley).  Their ‘spin’ wins the day.

spin by penniston at theater wit

While at the height of  their success, each of the character finds their world ‘spinning’ out of control making for a series of  clever plot turns, farcical twists and soul-searching personal realizations. The result is a funny, zinging attack on modern consumerist culture and the amoral ‘spin’ doctors who shape the “truth” of  life’s campaigns. Manipulation of the media and the dominant personalities are aptly depicted.

Lance Baker steals much of the show with his terrific timing and comical delivery using  a glance, a one-liner, or a retort. Coburn Goss is empathetic as the conscious-burdened art director. Joe Foust is the coldly pragmatic nonjudgmental advertising executive with a razor-sharp focus on the campaign.

Spin sports a fine set (by Jack Magaw). Penniston uses direct dialogue with the audience wily to both move along the story and to focus us on its themes.  She weaves her complexly  comedy into an engagingly funny show that has both depth of themes and ideas with well-rounded characters.  There is much to enjoy in this sharp-witted modern-day farce.  Spin is a most apt play to inaugurate Theater Wit’s new digs.   The combination of terrific acting with a fine script makes for a nice evening of theatre.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At the new Theater Wit at 1229 W. Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL, Call 773-975-8150, tickets $25, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission.

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