By Linda Mclean
Directed by Brad Akin
At Steep Theatre, Chicago
Unnerving mystery builds dramatic tension most effectively
In the spam of 85 minutes, we are on the edge of our seats in anticipation of what will happen next as well as trying to figure out May (the haunting Sasha Gioppo). Exactly what motivates and possesses May unfolds in five scenes, each with another man.
In the first scene, may finds a wounded baby bird on her balcony. She worries about and plans to take the bird to a vet. Her husband Dan (John Byrnes) tries to talk her out of that plan hinting that she has gone down this path before. This scene contains a glimpse into May’s psyche. Sasha Gioppo’s nuanced performance fuels the suspense and deeps the mystery.
The next scene finds May in a hospice with her dying father Duncan (Sandy Ellas). He is disturbed by may’s cheerfulness since he is dying, her feels May’s reaction inappropriate. Ellas is terrific here.
In scene three, may meets with a man she met online. She wants to be beaten in a sexual romp but her online mate, Roy (Peter Moore) is quite apologetic about his sexual fantasies. We see yet another side of May.
In scene four, May meets her estranged brother Denis (Andrew Burden Swanson) who is agitated that may is pregnant. He eludes to the agreement made twenty years ago that neither would ever have children due to what happened from the monster that emerged from the park.
May’s interaction with Able (Ian Paul Custer), a social worker sent to check on the welfare of May’s infant son makes Able both nervous and determined to actually see the sleeping infant.
McLean’s style of having May and the male characters spout run-on sentences and long stream-of-conscious outburst deepens the mystery at the expense of clarity. Is May experiencing a mental breakdown? Is she so filled with regret, grief and rage that she is vulnerable to feel pain from that mysterious event in the park twenty years age? Certainly, May’s behavior is bizarre, but why? You’ll have to see this show -and- if you pay close attention to the subtly, maybe, just maybe, you’ll resolve the mystery. Keep in mind that Linda McLean’s scrip and Sasha Gioppo’s performance could leave you hanging. That seems to be her style. Strangers, babies will rattle some; irritate others; and totally engross others. It is a tightly wound mystery that will quickly suck you in and keep you guessing throughout. It is a fascinating play by a talented playwright.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 25, 2014
For more info checkout the strangers, babies page at theatreinchicago.com
At Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn, Chicago, IL, www.steeptheatre.com, call 773-649-3186, tickets $20 – $22, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sunday matinees at 3 pm, Feb 2, 9, 16 & 23, through March 1, 2014