Theatre in Review

“Late Company” is the fairly literal title of a new play by Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill. Presented by COR Theatre, Jessica Fisch directs the regional premiere at Pride Arts Center. The 80-minute play is a response to the uptick in teen suicides triggered by cyberbullying.

“Late Company” takes on the weighty issue of LGBT teen suicide. The play begins with political couple Michael (Paul Fagen) and Debora (Tosha Fowler) setting up for some dinner guests. Over the course of their cryptic conversation, we glean that their son has killed himself and the dinner guests are the parents of the bully they blame for their son’s suicide.

The implausibility of the situation is troubling. It’s hard to imagine that a grieving family would cordially invite over the parents of the bully they blame for the loss of their son. It’s even harder to imagine anyone taking that invitation. What transpires over the course of 80 minutes is a structurally unsound one-liner competition. Some highlights include “you were always more interested in the spin, than the spin cycle.”

This is not a play without heart. This is a play without a clear message. While most of us can generally agree that suicide is a heartbreaking thing to happen to any loved one, this play treats it as nearly incidental. The playwright struggles to flesh out a clear central argument. These characters are rarely having conversations, sometimes they’re just reading letters to each other. Great plays are exchanges of revelatory dialogue in which bigger issues are addressed. “Late Company” stays so specific to its own characters that it rarely acknowledges the outside world.

Tannahill’s play is ambitious and maybe more remarkable in other productions. The storyline is very relevant and has the opportunity to say much more than it does in its current form. There’s a lot to discuss on this topic and plenty of work still to do to prevent teen suicide. The playwright would be wise to dig a little deeper than anger in order to express that moral.

At COR Theatre through July 16th at Pride Arts Center. 4147 N Broadway St

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Get set for a scorching start to Chicago's summer theater season when Cor Theatre presents the Midwest premiere of  ”Late Company”, a shockingly funny, scathingly painful drama set on Chicago's North Shore about LGBTQ youth and the scourge of teen suicide.

Acclaimed director Jessica Fisch will stage the first Chicago production of this vitally important new work by Canadian playwright, director and filmmaker Jordan Tannahill - "the future of Canadian theatre" (NOW Magazine) and "the hottest name in Canadian theatre" (Montreal Gazette).

The raves continue for the just-opened European premiere of ”Late Company” at London's Finborough Theatre. Time Out London called ”Late Company” a "powerful new drama about the devastating aftershocks of cyber bullying. Superb." The Times hailed this "dinner party from hell serves up the full gamut of emotions. A terrific play. Go! This one deserves a West End transfer."
 
Like the controversial Netflix hit series 13 Reasons Why, ”Late Company” takes no prisoners with its vivid portrayal of the aftershocks of teen suicide. 

New dates for Cor Theater's Chicago debut of ”Late Company” are June 17 to July 16, 2017 at The Buena (Pride Arts Center), 4147 N. Broadway St. in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. Tickets, $18-$30, are on sale now at cortheatre.org, or by calling (866) 811-4111.

Updated schedule: Previews are Saturday June 17 at 3 p.m., and Sunday and Monday, June 18 and 19 at 8 p.m.
Performances continue through July 16: Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.
Exceptions: No shows Wednesday, June 21 or July 5. The show on Thursday, June 22 is sold out.

“Late Company” is for mature audiences. 

More about “Late Company”

One year after a gay teen's suicide, two North Shore families sit down to dinner. Pleasant mealtime chatter quickly turns into fierce interrogation as each person at the table confesses their real or imagined part in the tragedy. As blame shifts, layers of parental, sexual, and political hypocrisy are revealed. Scathingly funny and heartbreakingly real, award winning Jordan Tannahill's ”Late Company” asks, "How well can a parent ever really know their child?"
 
According to Cor Artistic Director and cast member Tosha Fowler, "“Late Company” is about wrestling with forgiveness. Two sets of parents are fighting desperately for closure from a suicide brought on by missed opportunities and misunderstandings on both sides. Nobody in the room is blameless - everyone is sparring like hell to find peace within themselves and each other."
 
"Jordan's writing is funny and searing. It has the kind of visceral energy that makes live theater unique," said director Jessica Fisch, adding, "In light of our current political climate, a play about people coming to the table to talk over their grievances feels both novel and inspirational. I want to believe it's possible for people with drastically different points of view to find common ground and healing.
“Late Company” challenges that belief and offers hope that it is possible."
 
The “Late Company” cast is Tony Bozzuto (so memorable in Cor's Skin Tight and Christina, The Girl King), Matthew Elam (a Chicago newcomer and third year acting major at DePaul), Paul Fagen (recently seen in About Face's The Tempermentals) and Tosha Fowler (co-founder and artistic director of Cor, stage credits include What of The Night? and Love and Human Remains, director of last season's A Map of Virtue, and one of New City's 2016 Players: The 50 People who Really Perform for Chicago.) New to the cast is Asia Jackson, most recently seen in Among All of This You Stand Like A Fine Brownstone at ETA Creative Arts Theatre.

The production team is Cole von Glahn (assistant director), Adam Gutkin (set and props), Alarie Hammock (costumes), Jeffrey Levin (sound), Eric Vigo (lights), Topher Kielbasa (dramaturg), Stefin Steberl (production manager) and Michael Starcher (stage manager).
 
Jordan Tannahill is a playwright, director, filmmaker and a leading figure in Canada's gay arts community. The Toronto Globe and Mail recently hailed him as "...the poster child of a new generation of (theatre? film? dance?) artists for whom 'interdisciplinary' is not a buzzword, but a way of life." His plays have been presented across Canada, his films have been widely exhibited at venues such as the Toronto International Film Festival, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the British Film Institute, and he received the 2014 Governor General's Literary Award for Drama for his book Age of Minority: Three Solo Plays. In collaboration with William Ellis, Tannahill runs the alternative art-space Videofag in Toronto. Currently he is partnering with the National Theatre of London and the National Film Board Canada to create Draw Me Close, an immersive technology memoir in which audiences experience a live, illustrated world as five-year-old Jordan during his mother's battle with cancer. The first chapter of Draw Me Close premieres April 21-29, 2017 at the Tribeca Film Festival. jordantannahill.com.

Jessica Fisch is a Chicago-based freelance director and professor. Chicago projects this season include directing the world premiere of Firebirds Take the Field for Rivendell Theatre Ensemble and associate directing Straight White Men by Young Jean Lee at Steppenwolf. Other credits include Trudy, Carolyn, Martha and Regina Travel to Outer Space (Actors Theatre of Louisville, Humana Festival), Fefu and Her Friends (Goodman Theatre/Rivendell Latina/o Celebration), Opulent Complex and That Thing That Time (Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Tens), Far Away (SITE Festival, Northwestern), 42 Stories (Raven Theatre, [Working Title] series) and Machinal and Spike Heels (Northwestern University). Selected New York credits are
The Realm (The Wild Project), strive/seek/find (Abingdon Theatre), the 2009 Playwrights Horizons Stories on 5 Stories Benefit, Personal History (Ensemble Studio Theatre), The Redheaded Man (Barrow Street Theatre/Down Payment Productions/FringeNYC/ FringeEncores), and Dressed In Your Dreams (Public Theater/Emerging Writers Group), an adaptation of the cult 1960's gothic vampire soap opera Dark Shadows (Williamstown Theatre Festival). Prior to moving to Chicago, Fisch lived in New York City where she was the Co-founder and Artistic Director of Down Payment Productions (DPP). She was also a resident director at Ensemble Studio Theater, the 2008-2009 Playwrights Horizons Directing Resident and a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab. She earned her MFA at Northwestern University. 

About Cor Theatre
 
Cor Theatre (cortheatre.org) debuted in September 2012 with a vision to create theatrical experiences that are rarely presented in Chicago by artists who seek to defy expectation. Today, Cor is one of Chicago's youngest and most ambitious professional theater companies with a growing board and strong experience behind it.

Cor's inaugural production, Skin Tight by Gary Henderson, was met with enthusiastic audiences, critical acclaim and made just enough money to establish a not-for-profit corporation. The company named itself Cor Theatre, deriving its name from the Latin root of courage - meaning heart.
 
Cor returned in 2015 with Erin Courtney's A Map of Virtue, named a top show to see in the Chicago Tribune and Most Promising Debut by Time Out Chicago. Cor triumphed again in 2015 with the first Chicago staging in 20 years of Brad Frasier's Love and Human Remains, which played to numerous sold-out houses and was named one of the top plays to see by Windy City Times and New City.

In March 2016, Cor presented the U.S. premiere of Christina, The Girl King by Michel Marc Bouchard, translated by Linda Gaboriau, telling the true story of the enigmatic, gender bending 17th century Queen of Sweden. Cor concluded its 2016 season in October with an epic production of Bertolt Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan, translated by Tony Kushner, directed by ensemble member Ernie Nolan.
 
Most recently, in January 2017, Cor gobsmacked Chicago audiences and critics alike with Carlos Murillo's daring staging of What of the Night? by María Irene Fornés.
Company members are Tony Bozzuto, Chris Brickhouse, Elyse Cowles, Tosha Fowler, Adam Gutkin, Alarie Hammock, Topher Kielbasa, Jeffrey Levin, Claire Meyers, Ernie Nolan, Stefin Steberl and Eric Vigo.

For more information, visit cortheatre.org, like Cor Theatre on Facebook, follow the company on Twitter, @CorTheatre, or call (866) 811-4111.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Cor Theatre this time brings its latest production, “Love and Human Remains”, to the intimate Rivendell Theatre in Edgewater. A psychological thriller that made waves in the 1990s for its daring and gutty material, “Love and Human Remains” is a story that revolves around a handful of Chicago couples amidst a serial killer on the loose.

It takes a good part of the first act before we get a good feel of who’s who in this play. Beginning with a dominatrix who tales the tale many of us have heard at some point about Cuba Road where a young man is murdered in the woods while trying to get help after car trouble strands he and his girlfriend, we are soon introduced to roommates David and Candy to which are the main focus in the story. David is gay and is quick to use biting sarcasm every chance he gets. A former child actor now turned waiter, he is unattached and willing and able to find quick sex anywhere he can. Candy is looking for love and though attractive and seemingly kind-hearted, she doesn’t seem to have much luck. As the story progresses David’s tall and good looking friend Bernie is introduced, he often appears drunk and bloody, chalking it up to bar room fights due to his propensity to hit on unavailable women. Meanwhile the bodies are adding up.

Written by Brad Fraser and directed by Ernie Nolan, this is a play with much crotch grabbing and excessive nudity as the lesser known worlds of S&M and underground gay hook ups are also explored. It is a story of instant gratification, obsessions, guilt and consequence. It is also a story of hopefulness and finding companionship.

Andrew Goetten as David and Kate Black-Spence really steal the show with their electrifying performances. Goetten delivers Jeff Goldblum-like musings and over-analyzed histrionics, hitting perfectly called for tone inflection and sentiment on cue to project his feelings ever so effortlessly. At the same time, Black-Spence is able to channel her emotions in just the right way so that we can really feel for her character’s sadness, guilt, loneliness and hope.

The first act moves a bit slowly and we kind of wonder if the ever present ensemble chants and comments in the background are necessary or detracting from the play’s story. By the second act it becomes apparent the play would probably be better if acted out as a traditional presentation piece rather than being an ensemble piece whereas surrounding characters in the background are constantly chiming in along or around the main scenes. Still, the play does come together enough in the second act to where its intrigue becomes the focal point and we crave to see the outcome for each character.   

It’s dark, sexual and is funny in more places than one would expect. In time, it even becomes rather absorbing as a thriller.

“Love and Human Remains” is being performed at Rivendell Theatre in Edgewater through July 11th. For tickets and/or more information visit ww.CorTheatre.org.  

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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