By Kathleen Akerley
Produced by Sideshow Theatre Company
At Theater Wit, Chicago Futuristic drama is so far-fetched as to be not credible
I admired playwright Kathleen Akerley’s 2010 Theories of the Sun produced my Sideshow Theatre Company. She is a talented, creative and brave writer who isn’t afraid to cover new ground. But she sure stretches credulity in her latest world premiere, Tyrant, now showing at Chicago’s Theater Wit.
The press notes state: “One year from right now, Congress solves the homelessness problem. The newly passed Rectification Act gives disenfranchised citizens new lives as trained workers in the homes of the wealthy. But they are also forbidden from leaving the program to find a better future. Twenty years later, Leon and Regina are hired to work for well-meaning philanthropist Martin, who has become interested in new fields of psychiatric research and invites his workers to participate. But a simple gift begins a powerful series of events that will test the principles of the entire household. Searing questions of morality, possession and the crimes of the well-intentioned boil to the surface in the tense and provocative world premiere …”
My problems with Tyrant are many. First, Akerley forgot that America has courts with a long record of protecting civil and personal rights that would certainly declare the Rectification Act unconstitutional. She also failure to deal with the racial element of homelessness, and, the large group of mentally ill folks who swell the homeless population. Taking personal freedom away and placing folks into benevolent servitude is slavery something we fought a bloody war over. But, sweeping aside all the faults in the premise of solving the homelessness problem , we meet two servants, message therapists, Leon (Andy Lutz) and Regina (Clare O’Connor) who live and work with Martin (Matt Fletcher), a quirky,well-intentioned philanthropists who seems to obsessed with psychological self assessment of his random thought while receiving a physical message by Leon and Regina.
PROBLEM: Leon and Regina are products of Rectification Center since their families became homeless. During the long tedious dialogue about all the rules and regulations about the new super government, we learn that Uncle Sam regulates many aspects of citizen’s lives including what Martin can do for and with his servants. Much of Tyrant gets bogged down in that over-regulated world. Yet, Leon and Regina are trained message therapists, they seem to ignorant of basic life skills and information. Leon can’t write and Regina doesn’t know the ‘facts of life’ despite both being trained as skilled workers, Ha?
Martin is a narcissistic person who seems to be an altruist but really comes off as a sexually frustrated man who loves to walk around nude as he enjoys his daily messages.. Once Leon violates one of the basic rule of living, Regina pays the price with a physical injury based on her not understanding the a tea kettle gets hot while cooking. Ha?
Add Marin’s battle with his friend Matthew (Paige Smith) who is also some kind of government inspector and the psychiatric therapist Nicole (Karie Miller) and the futuristic world makes 1984 look tame.
Matt Fletcher works hard and bears it all as he tries to humanize his character. The others come off as semi-robots.
Since the premise of Tyrant is preposterous and the dull repetitive message scenes and rules-talk sessions are boring, Tyrant collapses under the weight of its own making. The play’s ending is both shocking and unsatisfying even if you accept the show’s premise. The show is too long and repetitive as it tries to cover too many themes. Freedom for all is surely lacking in an over regulated society. We get that so why concoct such a depressing future? I don’t believe the homeless problem will lead us to regulate away our freedom. That is why we have courts. This play needs to be re-thought. It now plays as a preposterous bore.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: June 8, 2014
For more info checkout the Tyrant page at theatreinchicago.com
At Theater Wit 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-975-8150, www.theaterwit.org, tickets $20 – $25, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through June 29, 2014