The Flu Season

By Will Eno

The Flu Season
The Flu Season by Will Eno

Directed by Jeremy Wechsler

Produced by Black Sheep Productions

At the Athenaeum Theatre

Eno’s The Flu Season more about style and form that story

I had mixed feeling about The Flu Season mainly because it attempted to do so much and almost succeeded. Will Eno’s unique structure contains two narrators—Prologue (Cory Krebsbach), the optimistic voice of the playwright who introduces and comments on the play’s action. He is smiling and up-beat. Epilogue (John Henry Roberts) is the cynical, gloomy and pessimistic playwright. Each take turns sitting in the audience and jumping on stage to speak their piece about the play. This worked nicely at first but eventually wore out its welcome as the story became darker and darker.

The Flu Season, besides having nothing to do with the flu, is a play about the agony of writing a play. It is a deconstructed, non-linear drama that wants to be both a love story and a glimpse into the world of mental illness. We meet a Man (Matt Holzfeind in a terrific performance) and a Woman (Alice Wedoff)—two inpatients at a mental hospital. They are both socially immature with weak communication skills. Their doctor (William J. Watt) and their nurse (Darrelyn Marx) spend their time speaking about their own issues rather than trying to help their patients. Eno fills the play with dense speeches and strong symbols—winter and spring, etc. This work has moments of brilliance—especially in the scenes where Man and Woman are connecting. Matt Holzfeind and Alice Wedoff subtly produce sparks.

However, the structure is uneven, lives in fits and starts with too many interruptions by Prologue and Epilogue. Ambivalence rules here as the failure to communicate seems to have its roots in total self awareness by the characters. The play seems to wonder what it is really about as the story unravels. This enigma together with its unique style, renders The Flu Season as one of those plays that should be seen by serious theatre goers because of its inventiveness. The work creeps up on you and leaves you thinking about it long after you leave the theatre.

Recommended

Tom Williams

At the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, Chicago, IL, Call 312-902-1500, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through May 31, 2009