By Laura Schellhardt
Produced by The Route 66 Theatre Company
At A Red Orchid Theatre
An epic story told through an intimate lens
The challenge of a one- person show is if it is great, accolades go to the actor for pulling it off. If the show is failure, it cannot be blamed on the supporting cast. Luckily, Gwendolyn Whiteside has the acting chops to make The K of D: An Urban Legend a captivating night of theatre. However, all of the credit cannot be given to Whiteside, because The Route 66 Theatre Company and director Meredith McDonough have produced an all around playground of imagination for Whiteside to play in.
The K of D: An Urban Legend focuses on skinny Charlotte McGraw, a girl who loses her twin brother to a reckless driver, and inherits a supernatural power from his dying kiss. The events following “the death” take place in one summer, in a rural town in Ohio. We are introduced to 13 distinct characters, all deftly portrayed by Gwendolyn Whiteside. This lays the scene for an urban legend to come to life. According to The Girl (who serves as the primary narrator) and urban legend; usually takes place in a rural area, they never happen to the person telling the story, are told as if they are true, and details are important. The Girl stays true to these criteria while telling the story.
Playwright Laura Schellhardt’s writing evokes the feeling of Flannery O’Connor or Harper Lee by creating a coming of age story with a pastoral backdrop. I was tickled to see homage to the knocking on Boo Radley’s door scene from To Kill A Mockingbird. While the story is pretty simple, the unraveling of it is complex and exciting to watch. However, this play is not for those with short attention spans. Schellhardt gives a lot of attention to exposition and character development, so the action does not begin to nearly 25 minutes into the 80-minute play. But pay attention to the details, and you will be rewarded.
I applaud director Meredith McDonough and the design team for truly immersing me into the world of the play. The direction was cinematic with a razor sharp attention to detail. Steve Key created a simple, but effective set. Lighting designer Jesse Klug created an atmosphere where at one moment I was watching a sunset, immediately followed by an eerie and desolate roadside. My hat goes off to Sound Designer Lindsay Jones for creating a sound scape, which served as another character in the play.
I am very pleased to be introduced to The Route 66 Theatre Company. If The K of D: An Urban Legend, the second production of a new Equity theatre company, is a sign of things to come, this is a company to keep your eye on.
At A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells Street, Chicago IL, www.route66theatre.org or call (773) 308-6927, tickets range in price from $20-$25, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3:00pm, running time is 80 minutes with no intermission, Through July 12.