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Wednesday, 10 January 2018 20:28

For The Loyal is dynamic and brutally honest

Echoing the western world’s most debated issue of late, For The Loyal was inspired by the Penn State sexual abuse scandal involving one of the college football coaches. Written by Lee Blessing and directed by James Yost, the play is presented as part of Interrobang Theatre Project’s ‘RAW Series’. Five actors on a tiny, modestly decorated stage (scenic design by Pauline Olesky), each playing multiple parts and enacting a story with alternative endings – it’s stripped down of anything but the story, acting and analysis of a crime.

Toby (Matthew Nerber) is an assistant coach to Mitch Carlson (very convincing Rob Frankel), the head coach of a top college football program. Toby’s wife Mia (intensely played by Sarah Gise) is pregnant with the couple’s first child. Toby and Mia had just become aware of Carlson’s terrible secret, and now everyone involved, including Carlson’s boss, Hale (Josh Zagoren), is faced with a difficult choice. A lot is at stake: the program’s integrity, coaches’ careers and reputations, but no one but Mia has any concern for Carlson’s victim. Mia is faced with a personal dilemma: stay loyal to the program and keep a secret, or bring Carlson to justice. She spends the evening exploring and playing out different scenarios and outcomes in her head, none of which seems particularly satisfying to her.

The creators of the play did a great job analyzing the dynamic between the sexual predators and their victims, giving us plenty of food for thought: is the sexual predator usually a stranger or is he more often a respected figure? Is the victim (a young boy played by Richard David) still a victim, despite his “consent”? Is Coach Carlson guilty, even though “no boy comes to him who is not ready for him”? And, most importantly, do we, as a society, tend to put certain people on a pedestal and then become protective of them, despite their crimes? Carlson’s remark is priceless: “Watch out for heroes, not strangers”. Indeed.

For the Loyal is being performed at Athenaeum Theatre through February 4th. For tickets and/or show information visit www.athenaeumtheatre.org.  

Published in Theatre in Review

Following its hit production of FOXFINDER, Interrobang Theatre Project is pleased to continue its 2017-18 Season, exploring the urgent question “What is Truth?,” with Lee Blessing's shocking and thought-provoking new play FOR THE LOYAL, directed by Co-Artistic Director James Yost*. FOR THE LOYAL will play January 6 – February 4, 2018 at The Athenaeum Theatre (Studio 1), 2936 N. Southport Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at www.interrobangtheatre.org, by calling (773) 935-6875 or in person at The Athenaeum Theatre Box Office. The press opening is Monday, January 8 at 7:30 pm.
 
FOR THE LOYAL features ensemble members Sarah Gise* as Mia and Matthew Nerber* as Toby with Rob Frankel as Carlson, Richard Hatcher as The Boy and Josh Zagoren as Hale.
 
For Toby and Mia, college football and family are one and the same; he has a new coaching job for a top team, and they are happily expecting their first born. But when Toby gets Mia enmeshed in an unseemly team secret, she is forced to decide where her loyalties truly lie. Inspired by the Penn State sexual abuse scandal, FOR THE LOYAL takes an unconventional and provocative look at how one woman traverses a no-win situation. 
 
FOR THE LOYAL is presented as part of Interrobang's RAW Series. Think of it a bit like theatrical sashimi. Big ideas, bold flavors – everything you’ve come to expect from Interrobang Theatre Project – without the trimmings. We’ve stripped down the classic stage elements to put the story front and center. The RAW Series features passion-projects and bucket-list productions spearheaded by our talented ensemble. In addition to our regularly scheduled plays, the RAW Series aims to bring concise, actor-driven theater to the Chicago stage. 
 
In Conversation with The Playwright
Interrobang Theatre Project with host a talkback with playwright Lee Blessing on Saturday, January 6, 2018 from 4 – 5 pm. Tickets cost $10 (discussion only) or $20 (discussion plus 7:30 pm performance. For additional information, visit www.interrobangtheatre.org.
 
The production team for FOR THE LOYAL includes: Pauline Olesky (scenic design), Rebecca Bartle (lighting design), Christopher Aaron Knarr* (original music), Hannah Wolff (asst. director) and Devonte Washington (stage manager).
 
*Denotes Interrobang Theatre Project Company Member. 
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: FOR THE LOYAL
Playwright: Lee Blessing
Director: Co-Artistic Director James Yost
Cast: Sarah Gise (Mia) and Matthew Nerber (Toby) with Rob Frankel (Carlson), Richard Hatcher (The Boy) and Josh Zagoren (Hale).
 
Location: The Athenaeum Theatre (Studio 1), 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago
Dates: Previews: Saturday, January 6 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, January 7 at 2 pm
Press opening: Monday, January 8 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Thursday, January 11 – Sunday, February 4, 2018
Curtain Times: Thursdays, and Fridays at 7:30 pm; Saturdays at 2 pm & 7:30 pm: Sundays at 2 pm. 
Tickets: Previews: $17. Regular run: $32. Students $17 with ID. (Ticket prices include $2 Athenaeum Theatre restoration fee). 
In Conversation with Playwright Lee Blessing: Saturday, January 6 from 4 – 5 pm $10 (discussion only) or $20 (discussion plus 7:30 pm performance).
Tickets are currently available at www.interrobangtheatre.org, by calling (773) 935-6875 or in person at The Athenaeum Theatre Box Office.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Blind dates can be interesting enough but add in a few surprises and things can get pretty uncomfortable in a hurry. In Recent Tragic Events we meet a couple, Waverly and Andrew, who gets together for a date on the recommendation of mutual friends and as the night progresses they have more in common than they could have possibly thought. 

 

The date starts precariously. It's the day after the September 11th attacks and Waverly's twin sister has not been heard from. Waverly is somewhat certain that her sister would not have been at the World Trade Center during the attacks but still has a bit of doubt. Andrew, who manages a book store at the airport, is awkward and shy but quickly notices that Waverly has the exact same books as him when picking her up and their admiration for the same authors quickly creates a bond between the two. With Waverly upset about her sister's status the two decide to stay indoors to hand out and order pizza. It's not long after that down-the-hall neighbor Ron intrudes on the date. Ron is a happy-go-lucky musician who doesn’t seem to take too much in life very seriously. The three of them tune in and out of news broadcasts covering the attack, but try to keep things light-hearted though a heavy cloud overshadows their evening. Soon Ron’s married girlfriend joins the group hair disheveled and clad only in an oversized t-shirt and panties. She doesn’t speak, only nodding and making slight sounds in agreement or disagreement. 

 

The intrigue begins when Andrew tells Waverly that he had met her sister just two weeks prior at a bar. Recollecting his encounter, he tells Waverly and Ron that she had been discussing a position for a company located in the World Trade Center. Of course, that naturally amplifies Waverly’s worst fears. 

 

Recent Tragic Events is full of funny dialogue and subtle mannerisms, especially once Ron enters the scene, played hysterically by Maximillian Lupine who can induce laughter with the slightest of looks or gestures. Though Lupine gets most of the big laughs, Rachel Christianson is also hilarious – not so much as Ron’s girlfriend Nancy, but as Andrew’s favorite author, Waverly’s grandmother Joyce Carol Oates, who is portrayed by a sock puppet on her hand. Oates even knocks down a few beers with the gang during her visit if you can imagine a sock puppet chugging during a drinking game. Naturally when Joyce Carol Oates needs to use the bathroom, Nancy shows her the way, waits for her before returning together. Matthew Nerber also puts forth a humorous performance as the dweeby bookworm Andrew along with Laura Berber Taylor who displays a fine emotional range.   

 

The story is well-balanced with both the humor of the gang interacting (often awkwardly)and the drama that a tragedy more personal than expected may have taken place. Once really gets to like the characters, probably because there is a lot of truth in them. The question of free will is challenged, pondering if we really do make our own choices even when we think we do. This is brought to the surface in many ways not only with parallels to the September 11th attacks but even in the actors reading from a script after the “stage manager” alerts the crowd that the story could go in different ways by changing lines every time a chime is heard. Ron and Joyce Carol Oates also have a heated exchange on the subject. 

 

Recent Tragic Events is worth checking out. It is a show that will make you think past the many good laughs it offers. The characters work well together thanks to a well-assembled cast and solid scripting while the story keeps your attention, though it seems to run a bit longer than it should, quickly changing tone and opting to linger rather than closing on a prior opportune moment or two. 

 

Recent Tragic Events is being performed at Athenaeum Theatre through April 10th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.athenaeumtheatre.org .   

 

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