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The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle

By Ross Dungansteep theatre

Directed by Jonathan Berry

At Steep Theatre, Chicago

“Story Theatre is the dramatic presentation of one or more stories told by a group of actors play who multiple roles and provide narration. It is characterized by the use of simple “scenery” like chairs and tables arranged to suggest various settings, simple props like scarves or cardboard tubes used in different ways in more than one story, and costume pieces like aprons, glasses, or a hat. Music is also often incorporated into Story Theatre performances.” –

Story theatre techniques with too-fast-talking Irish brogues produced a boring atmosphere

When The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle opens, we hear several narrators say “He went…,”  ” She told him that…,” etc This telling us rather than showing or acting out Eric Argyle’s life proved too much monotony for the audience. With all the players sporting  authentic Irish brogues, but each sounded amazingly alike in tone, pitch and timber that, together, with the monotony of extreme use of narration, rendered me and  most of the audience into a sleepy state. Induced by the fragmented story that finds more than half the show presented in that mind-numbing fast-talking, sound alike  narrative, audiences became so disinterested and bored that many simply fell asleep.

It may well be that The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle’s structure is unlikely to be liked by audiences.  It tries to be a warm-hearted, Our Town-ish theatrical piece but that awful storytelling theatre technique with those sound-alike matter-of-fact narrators turned off many. Once you lose your audience, the show is doomed. That was the case here since all throughout the theatre, heads were nodding. I had to fight off my weariness as the disjointed scenes droned on. I quickly both lost tract of the events of Eric Argyle’s life and I lost any empathy with him because all those events that were expressed in the boring narrative simply were too many details.

I’m not sure if this play’s structure, no matter who it is executed, is stage worthy.  The axiom: if you confuse (and bore) your audience early on, you loose  them applies here. I think this play wants to ask the question: “Is there such thing as a small life?” Maybe, less narration, more acting out and with varied sounding brogues, could get us invested in Eric Argyle’s life? Maybe.

Don’t give up on Steep Theatre since they have been mounting many terrific shows over the last few years. Unfortunately this play was just so poorly structured even for a fine director like Jonathan Berry had little chance for success. It is a long 105 minutes.

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: January 23, 2015

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout The Life and sort of Death of Eric Argyle at

At Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn, Chicago, IL . call 773-649-3186,, tickets $10 -$34, Thursdays,  Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm, (select Sundays at 3pm) running time is 105 minutes without intermission, through February 28, 2015