REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Star Witness

By Joe Menostar witness by joe meno

Directed by Sean Graney

Produced by The House Theatre of Chicago

At Chopin Theatre

Eerie mystery an unfocused affair

I’m still scratching my head hours after leaving the Studio space at Chopin Theatre after seeing the 85 minute two act mystery – Star Witness. I’m not sure playwright Joe Meno’s work trying to do? It plays as if many pages of the script were missing. It is rare that I complain that a play is too short but that is the case here.

star witness by joe meno

In act one, we are massed in the lobby of the basement studio at Chopin Theatre where we meet the quirky Hazel (Mary Redmon) – a retired school teacher whose main source of entertainment consists of listening to a police scanner. We see how wacky Hazel is as she mumbles her way through a running monologue about a hunter in a forest. When her housemate, Shelly (Briana DeGulio) – Hazel’s surrogate daughter comes home from a long day as a waitress  in the small town dinner, they plan an evening of board games while listening to the police calls.

We see evidence that Shelly is a restless soul bored with the monotony of  rural life. She depicts one of the two types that endure in Somerest, IL – the restless soul seeking her place in the world. Hazel depicts the content souls who are content with the triviality of isolated rural life. Their status quo is interrupted when the scanner blares a report of a missing young girl.

Shelly earlier told of her dream of finding a dead body that haunts her often.  When the scanner tells of a search for the little girl, Shelly becomes obsessed with find the girl. Is she dead or just missing? Act one ends with the doors to the stage opening to Shelly pedaling her bicycle towards the woods.

Act Two has the audience moving into the theatre’s runway stage that finds Shelly biking in the dark. She meets an assortment of characters  in her sort of “Wizard of Oz” odyssey. I’ll not state more so I will not ruin the suspense. Let me state that  Joe Meno’s play seems underwritten and the production is uneven and strangely focused. Too much of the work was about Hazel and not enough about building and delivering the suspense. It is also not clear what they real focus of the work is . Is this show a mystery or an absudist adventure depicting the effects of desperate lonely bored small town folks? In the short 85 minutes, not enough is presented for us to be sure. Yet, director Graney’s stage in act two almost saves the play.

Somewhat Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: April 1, 2011

For full show information, go to the Star Witness TheatreinChicago page.

At Chopin Theatre, 1543  W. Division St., Chicago, IL, call 773-769-3832,, tickets $25, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 85 minutes with intermission, through May 7, 2011

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