Directed by Carolyn Klein
Produced by the side project
Wavering script receives a strong production.
After attending a string of safe plays: it was refreshing to see something out of the ordinary. The Artist Needs A Wife is far from perfect, but certainly provides an evening of incendiary theatre.
The Artist Needs A Wife gives a glimpse into a (sleazy would be a step up) basement apartment inhabited by Mott and Freud. They both hold a job (the specifics never stated), however when one returns it is time for the other to leave. A neighbor, by the name of Whore, frequents the apartment with a variety of agendas. However, Whore is an unwanted guest. To say much more would give away key plot points.
Playwright Jesse Weaver has a strong foundation, but lacks the play lacks necessary focus. Weaver is not sure if he wants an absurdist dark comedy, or a character drama. They writing would shift from manic yelling to quiet introspective moments. I felt the high-energy moments to be more engaging. Next, despite fine performances, none of the characters were likable. This would have been fine, except there were moments when attempts at sympathy were solicited. I saw potential in the first act, but the second act meandered to an unearned climax. Finally, I found it odd that a play called The Artist Needs A Wife pays little attention to the making or appreciation of “art”.
Luckily, the side project employed the brave and intelligent Carolyn Klein to direct this production. Klein had a nice handle on the material and knew when to move it along, and when to let the actors have their moments. This wonderful ensemble had such depth and conviction that I was able to forgive the writing flaws.
Klein and her production team paid attention to every detail to create the dreary world of the play. The design was so realistic I could smell the body odor and rotting food: kudos to William Anderson (scenic design), Mieka Van Der Ploeg (costume design), and Seth Reinick (lighting design).
The Artist Needs A Wife still needs work, but deserves an audience. If you want to escape from the run of the mill playwrights and plays being produced in Chicago: this is a play worth checking out. Not to mention, this is some of the strongest acting and directing I have seen in a long time. Take a chance on a new work.
Reviewed by Chris Arnold
The Artist Needs A Wife plays at The Side Project Theatre Company, 1439 West Jarvis Street in Chicago. The play runs 2 hours 25 minutes with intermission. Tickets are $18 general admission and $12 students and industry. Call 773-973-2150 or visit www.thesideproject.net.
Editor’s note: I completely agree with Chris Arnold’s review and I would add that the slow pace of the show hurt it. A trip of 20 minutes or so with a tighter focus and less screaming would also help. The fight choreography could be better. This is a brave show that has possibilities.