Produced by Vivarium Theatre Company
At BoHo Theatre’s Heartland Studio, Chicago
World premiere family relationship drama is hard to swallow
Megan John’s world premiere play, Whatever We Want, is a family relationship drama containing four quirky characters each striving to find connections and give love to a woman who always finds a way to push back all attempts to relate to her. We see Della (Niki Dreistad) with her younger sister Bug (Alison Banoswky) as they fantasize about life’s mysteries and battle to thwart growing apart and starting their lives over.
Set over a 15 year span, Whatever We Want deals with a 10 year old (Bug) and a 12 year old (Della) as they are have a tight sister bond with Della leading the way. Bug is a precocious child who loves to invent ridiculous quotes to spout. These two yearn for adventure but they become separated by their parent’s divorce. Over the years, they struggle to retain a relationship.
Over the course of 90 minutes and numerous blackouts to move the boxes of the set that hints of a screenplay structure, we become baffled by Bug and eventually Leonard (Patriac Coakley) as they spend so much time and effort to keep Della in their lives? Why would anyone, even a sister keep trying hard to keep loving a sister who is a selfish, narcissistic and insulting bore in their lives. My generation, after a few tries, would shun such a person and move on with our lives. Not so here, as Bug tries hard to relate and help Della who pushes back any attempts to have intimacy with another. Della is so unlikable, rude and self-centered that I don’t understand why Bug and the pathetic Leonard keep her in their lives.
I especially don’t understand Leonard. He seems like a mensch yet he tolerates Della’s absences and combative behavior. His meekness just feeds Della’s narcissism. He does get psychological abuse from Della yet he stays. Why? That relationship needs to be explained with more detail to be credible. Only Bug’s roommate (and lover?) Bethesda (Olivia Nielsen) is immune to Della’s spell as she tries to shield Bug from the controlling influence of Della.
This is a promising play that needs stronger motivation as to why Bug, after living apart and becoming her own person, still yearns for a relation with the nasty Della. Also, Leonard is an under developed character who is both a nice guy and a complete doormat to Della. Why does he so easily tolerate her? It seems that the sex and intimacy has evaporated, so why keep her in his apartment? He must be more that simply a lonely ‘loser’?
If you buy the premise then the play makes sense. I didn’t. Also, I hope playwright/director Megan Johns solves the need to have so many blackouts to move the set boxes that it seems the cast had to spend time rehearsing where to place the complicated box formations for each scene. There must be a better way to introduce each scene?
Whatever We Want is a promising work that is stage worthy that contains fine acting, especially from Alison Banoswky who exudes child-like exuberance that sparks an empathetic adult. This world premiere is worth a look.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: October 17, 2014
For more info checkout the Whatever We Want page at theatreinchicago.com
At BoHo Theatre’s Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood, Chicago, IL, tickets $15, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sunday Nov. 2 at 2pm, running time is 90 minutes without an intermission, through November 8, 2014