REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Aliens


a red orchid theatre
The Aliens

Directed by Shade Murray

At A Red Orchid Theatre

“You have to tell me if you start feeling weird again,” Jasper says to K.J. –The Aliens

The Aliens takes the Pinter-pause to a new level as it is an extraordinarily subtle drama

There is something mesmerizing about long pauses, long silences that subtly heightens the tension and underscores the meanings. In The Aliens, playwright Annie Baker requires much silent moments. While these silences are tedious for audiences,  they both hook us in and advance the story.


The play takes place in the rear of a coffee show in Vermont where a dumpster and a picnic bench adorn the smelly place. We meet Jasper (Steve Haggard) and his pal K.J. (Brad Akin) as they sit in silence for at least several minutes motionless. It seem that K.J. was trying to sneeze but only became a a motionless statue. Jasper is depressed over losing his girlfriend; K. J. is depressed with life. These  two are bearded anti-social misfits completely alienated from society. These slackers hangout near the dumpsters as they elevate loitering to an art form. They spend time in silence, singing folksy songs, reading Bukowski. Every once in a while they talk philosophy but mostly they speak  quite desultory that comes across as gibberish at times. Mental  illness, drug abuse and a total lack of ambition dominate they two losers.

But they are harmless docile souls that befriend the nerd, lonesome seventeen year old coffeehouse worker, Evan (Michael Finley). He is impressionable loner just the type that would be attracted to eccentric, yet charmingly charismatic personalities like Jasper and K. J.  Playwright sprinkles her drama with contemporary speech patterns. She has Evan describing everything as “cool” and K.J. and Jasper use “like” in every sentence. She makes the silent pauses to augment the dialogue.

Aliens Michael Finley as Evan, Steve Haggard as Jasper, Brad Akin as KJ  - horiz 3

This quirky play has three unique characters played to the hilt by Steve Haggard, Brad Akin and Michael Finley. Each use their acting skills to fully develop their character’s foibles, fears and desires. The power of alienation and the struggle for purpose and self-fulfillment is presented in a most subtle manner. The internalized behavior of K. J. exemplifies itself in a stoic stupor that seems to dominate his outward behavior. This wackiness makes K.J. and enticing character.

The acting is disciplined and fully internalized. Steve Haggard is charming as Jasper; Michael Finely is the shy, tentative introvert struggling to have friends and find his place in the world. Without giving away much more, let me state that Evan and J.K. form a special bond based on mutual respect and genuine friendship. While this play takes extreme patience, one we get hooked,  the subtly of the work delivers an engrossing  evening of theatre.  The line between genius and insanity and between death and life are blended into a compelling story with three memorable characters. Stay with The Aliens, it’ll be worth it.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: January 21, 2013

For more info checkout The Aliens page at

At A Red Orchid Theatre,  1531N. Wells, Chicago, IL, call 312-943-8722,, tickets $25 – $30, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through March 3, 2013


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