Conceived and Directed by Michael Rohd
Written by Michael Rohd and Phillip C. Klapperich
Produced by The House Theatre of Chicago
At Chopin Theatre
Futuristic theatrical spectacle is steeped in politics
The House Theatre’s Phillip Klapperich and founding artistic director of Portland’s Sojourn Theatre, Michael Rohd have co-written Wilson Wants It All now in its world premiere at Chopin Theatre throughMarch 27, 2010. With acknowledged influences from Ray Bradbury’s speculative fiction and Philip K. Dick with inspiration from A Tale of Two cities, the 1993 film Dave and the myths of JFK–Wilson Wants It all is a futuristic spectacle. It is part mystery, part political drama and part adventure with romance, humor and techno sensibilities.
The story takes place thirty years in the future with America on the brink of another civil war as over population, unemployment and water shortages lower living standards across the USA. A seven party system and persuasive multi-media create a leaderless country in rapid gridlock. In 2040, the future of the divided nation is in the hands of Wilson (strong work from John Henry Roberts) as he manipulates the fate of twin daughters–heirs from an American dynasty. Hope (Rebekah Ward-Hays) and Ruth (Leslie Frame) are identical twins that not only switch places but find themselves on opposite sides of an escalating political conflict.
Filled with a six large partisans (set design by Collette Pollard) and gigantic video projections (by Lucas Merino), Wilson Wants It all unfolds as a fast-paced, news-oriented work that blends a TV reality format with a political suspenseful pot-boiler. The story borrows from many sources yet it feels real as we quickly become fascinated with the imaginative techno story telling elements. I did, however, have some problems with the predictable plot elements as well as the stock film noir characters. The conclusion stretches credulity as it proposes that both twins end up as a political force to save the nation. How can both twins–as political opposites on key issues like the mandatory sterilization policy as a form of population control unite the country?
While the ending is troublesome, the journey throughout is one of theatre as spectacle with engrossing use of video, futuristic gadgets and news bulletins works to create a world of political intrigue. Ward-Hays and Leslie Frame were effective as the two ‘Hopes.’ Carolyn Defrin as Meredith, the twins mother, and Kevin Barry Crowley as Bryan were strong in supporting roles. But the play is anchored by John Henry Roberts’ charismatic work as the political operative in the Karl Rowe tradition as ‘king-maker.’
Despite the strange ending, Wilson Wants It All is an stylistic adventure in The House Theatre of Chicago’s tradition. It is a worthy political cautionary tale. Roberts is terrific as Wilson.
At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, Chicago, IL, call 773-251-2195, www.thehousetheatre.com, tickets $25 -$29, student and industry get $10 off on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2 hours, 25 minutes with intermission, through March 27, 2010