By Jake Jeppson.
Directed by Damon Kiely.
At Redtwist Theatre, Chicago.
Strange new work defies credulity.
Turtle by Jake Jeppson according to the press notes is “A Comedy about the Myth of American Exceptionalism…and a turtle.” It is a strangely contrived and meaningless 90 minute one act filled with strange characters that come off as pure “playwright inventions” caught up in a senseless story.
Filled with audio from the 2012 Republican Primary debates and right wing polemics from one of the characters, Turtle speaks to the Myth of American Exceptionalism (defined: “The idea that the United States is destined to spread its unique gifts of democracy and capitalism to other countries is dangerous for Americans and for the rest of the world. The idea that the United States is uniquely virtuous may be comforting to Americans but it is simply not true.”) that is both confusing since our latest presidential election redefined and irrelevant to the confusing plot. After all, we just elected Donald Trump President. The dated right wing political debates contained here are a distraction and need to either be cut or updated to Trumpism.
The storyline is wacky as it plays out as a long “so what moment.” Molly (Emily Tate) is a housewife whose world is very small. She spends her days with her two tender aged children. She has her kids watch PBS nature documentaries such as those about turtles. At night she watches TV with her husband Sloan (Drew Johnson), a good loving guy and a moderate Republican. Molly follows politics but she is not obsessed as her Republican in-laws. Molly is content with her life – she appears a happy person in her small world.
Two things shatters Molly and Sloan’s world. First, dinner with in-laws Grace (Carolyn Kruse) and Pete (Michael Sherwin). This dinner is marred by Pete’s political tantrum as the tension filled the diner table. We learn that Pete has been fired and the couple’s elite life style is threatened. Both Grace and Pete are snobs, unlikable and arrogant. Pete is hostile even as Sloan and Molly try to help and reassure the couple that they not alone. That family will help. The insults made me wonder why Molly and Sloan don’t turn their back on the rude condescending relations.
While this dynamic was happening, another event complicates things. Molly and Sloan walk the beach, in winter, in their ‘Mid-Atlantic city’ (for no good reason). They hear a noise and Molly discovers a large turtle in distress. They quickly become consumed with helping the turtle who appears to be in labor. They take the turtle to their home and then they call Pete and Grace to help them save the turtle. Despite their problems and arrogance, Grace and Pete become invested in the turtle’s plight.
My problems with Turtle, the play are many. As an audience member, I left the theatre trying to figure out why a reliable theatre company such as Redtwist Theatre would select such a contrived play? Amazingly that a world premiere would contained so much outdated political material plus two most unlikable characters plus a naive mother who is consumed in the triviality of her small world. Even Molly’s obsession with her kids and the turtle and her manipulation of her sincere husband left me thinking she is a subtle nasty person. As nothing is really resolved, I wondered why anyone would want to spend 90 minutes in this convoluted world? This new play needs a serious re-write.
Date Reviewed: November 19, 2016.
For more info checkout the Turtle page at theatreinchicago.com.
At Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr, chicago, IL, call773-728-7529, www.redtwist.org, tickets $30 – $35, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through December 30, 2016.