Directed by Marti Lyons
At Raven Theatre’s West Stage
“We are going to play with magical realism and time travel and
side stories and make the whole thing sort of like a tapestry.”
Hurricane Katrina-themed play doesn’t work on all levels
I’m amazed that Raven Theatre selected The Play About My Dad, since this ill advised and structurally poor play is not stage worthy. One of the problems with The Play About My Dad is that it is billed as a “Hurricane Katrina” play, but it is really about the relationship between the playwright Boo (Tuckie White) and her father, Larry (Joe Mack), with tidbits about a select group of the hurricane’s victims.
I got turned off early by the play-within-a-play device where in the daughter, Boo (the playwright), and her estranged father Larry argue about the play’s structure and content as they break the fourth wall in a redundant debate that seemed to drone on and on. They tell instead of acting. Boo tells Larry that dramatizing the hurricane events makes the actual events seem more truthful. What? She also says she uses magical realism and time travel to tell her story. Both devices fall flat.
During this 90 minute drama, with an intermission (why?), the play’s basic reconciliation attempt seems hollow as we learn the Doctor Larry walked out on his wife and daughter and agreed to not speak to them because his new wife demands that, making Larry not likable. Boo comes off as a manipulative writer bent on having her play about her.
When we finally get the the three sets of hurricane victims, we have little empathy for them since they were easily content to wait out the hurricane with little worry, despite the on-going warnings from TV and the local authorities. Playwright Boo Killebrew underplays the threat. But the victims seemed to not worry even when the storm approached. How can I empathize with such stupidly? Only the little boy Michael Thomas (Aaron Lamm) evoked some sympathy. But, by far the dumbest victims had to be the two paramedics who waited in their ambulance until the water came up to their waists. All they did was argue and talk about personal matters. One of them, Kenny Tyson (Patrick Agada), believed in time travel and he claimed to be able to predict the future. Really? There was no evidence that they had a two-way radio in their vehicle so that someone could have told them to drive to higher ground. In 2005, ambulances and paramedics had radios. Why didn’t they drive to higher ground?
We also see Doctor Larry plead with Essie Watson (Sandra Watson), a senior who was his nanny, to evacuate her home since she lives close to the water. When she refuses, Larry easily gives up trying to help her. Nowhere in the terrible play is there any sense of urgency about Katrania despite all the media warnings. How can we have any sympathy for such stupidity?
We see each group, the family, the elderly woman, and the paramedics go to their deaths quite nonchalantly. And after a awkward final scene, this play ends. The show was paced slowly with too many empty dead space. The acting ranged from adequate to poor and the directing seems unsure. But the main disappointment here was that the tragedy of hurricane Katrina was given second place to the father-daughter squabble. Who picked this play?
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: October26, 2015
For more info checkout The Play About My Dad page at theatreinchicago.com
At Raven Theatre’s West Stage, 6157 N. Clark, Chicago, IL, call773-338-2177, www.raventheatre.com, tickets $42, $37 for seniors, $18 for students, military and teachers, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3:30 pm, running time is 90 minutes with intermission, through November 28, 2015