Theatre in Review

Sunday, 07 May 2017 20:16

One Too Many Stories in Threesome

The play Threesome is an ambitious work, taking aim at the ease with which we become stuck in patterns of bad behavior like possessiveness in relationships. It also reaches into threats to women's freedom in other cultures. 

As the lights come up we meet a married couple already in bed, who have embarked on a venture both risqué and risky: a man has been invited to join them for a tryst, at the behest of the wife, Leila (Suzan Faycurry). 

The two are modestly dressed, considering this is a three-way. Presentiments of a drawing room comedy? Perhaps it's a commentary on social mores leading couples to extremes, even when not a good fit. 

It’s the first time for the couple, an Egyptian-American pair. Husband Rashid (Demetrios Troy) was likely ready to jump into this moment without reserve, but guest Doug (Mike Tepeli) has been overlong and rather noisy in his preparations in the bathroom. This interlude gives Rashid too much time for second and third thoughts. Leila is compelled to combat his misgivings, but does not assuage his fears. The tryst is more about settling their own martial scores, it seems, than about the sex. 

The myriad tensions found in any domestic relationship arise, and conflicts surface. Debates about whether men or women feel greater pressure on body image, and who has the short end of the stick in social expectations - the usual stuff.

But there is a hint of something more, here – the couple are both from Cairo, and were actively engaged in the political and social struggles released in that country by the Arab Spring. Leila's memoir covering that time is about to be published - but she has pointedly not let Rashid read it. He accuses her of mistrust over this, and over his innocent flirtation with another woman. Leila counters that his occupation, photographer, sets him up as an observer rather than a full participant in life – and so on.

The tension pulls back as Doug bursts in, bubbling with excitement, which further unnerves Rashid. Fated to be the odd man out, Doug drives the comedic interlude that follows, and again we feel headed for lighter fare. But Doug’s joy fades as, unnerved that the two have withdrawn from the bed, he realizes he has stepped into the middle of a spat. Tepeli plays Doug with nuance and flair, especially challenging since he is in the nude for the first 15 minutes or so. 

We find Doug also has some baggage, and the unhappy couple conjures neuroses from his teen years. All this intimacy puts a damper on sex; the downside of Rashid and Leila’s marriage is on display. We also find that Doug, a photographer, has won the photo assignment that Rashid had been seeking: the cover of Leila’s book. An angry departure scene follows as the lights go down on Act I.

In Act II we are at Doug’s studio, where he is readying a set for the photo shoot. More drama follows as Doug and Leila work out the tension from the previous encounter. Then enters a drunken Rashid, and things continue downhill. Somewhere between the script and the performance, Faycurry's Leila is appropriately cerebral, but her dialog is unnaturally literary and unemotional. Troy's Rashid brings emotional range, and he has more luck with delivering the script. During his drunken diatrib, however, the lines require an unlikely sobriety. 

As the audience learns director Jason Gerace had a complicated scenario to present, and he manages to keep our interest on the script by Yussef El Guindi. But attention to the plight of Leila challenges loses out when mixed with so many other stories and issues within this story. 

Threesome runs through May 21 at Greenhouse Theater. Find tickets here.

Published in Theatre in Review

Route 66 Theatre Company is pleased to launch its ninth season with the world premiere of Gabe McKinley’s psychological drama THE SOURCE, directed by Jason Gerace, playing March 2 – April 2, 2017 at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Tickets for THE SOURCE are currently available at route66theatre.brownpapertickets.com. The press opening is Tuesday, March 7 at 7:30 pm.

 

THE SOURCE features Kristina Valada-Viars and Cody Proctor.

 

On the hunt for the biggest story of their careers, two journalists are summoned to travel across the world to meet with The Source: an unidentified leaker of hacked documents and information on the U.S. government. As these strangers probe one another for the truth and information, they find themselves in a thrilling psychological drama that leads them to examine their motives, their country and themselves… all while waiting for The Source. 

 

Director Jason Gerace comments, "The question of ‘privacy versus security’ is central to our time, and I could not be more pleased that Route 66 Theatre Company has agreed to take it on. McKinley's play tackles this question with urgency and frames it in a way that resonates in the current moment, while building a thrilling theatrical experience for the audience. I am beyond excited to be at the helm of the world premiere of this important new play."

 

The production team for THE SOURCE includes: Jack McGaw (scenic design), Claire Margaret Chrzan (lighting design), Christopher Kriz (sound design), Mark Comiskey (projection design), Rachel Sypniewski (costume design), Pauline Oleksy (props design), Catherine Allen (production manager), Brian Sprague (technical director), Nancy Staiger (stage manager) and Matthew Bonaccorso (asst. stage manager).

 

PRODUCTION DETAILS:

 

Title: THE SOURCE

Playwright: Gabe McKinley

Director: Jason Gerace

Cast: Kristina Valada-Viars (Laura) and Cody Proctor (Vernon). 

 

Location: The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago

Dates: Previews: Thursday, March 2 at 7:30 pm, Friday, March 3 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, March 4 at 3 pm & 7:30 pm and Sunday, March 5 at 3 pm

Press Opening: Tuesday, March 7 at 7:30 pm

Regular run: Thursday, March 9 – Sunday, April 2, 2017

Curtain Times: Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm; Saturdays at 3 pm & 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm

Tickets: Previews: $25 adults. Regular run: $35 adults; $20 students. Discounts available for groups of 10 or more. Tickets are available at route66theatre.brownpapertickets.com.

 

Creative Team Bios

 

Gabe McKinley’s (Playwright) plays have been produced and developed by companies nationally and internationally, including Atlantic Theater Company, Naked Angels, Premiere Stages, The Old Vic, American Theater Company, Ensemble Studio Theater, The LARK, Keen company, Williamstown Theater Festival and Red Dog Squadron, among others. His plays include The Kitchen Sink Play, Welcome Home Rock Rogers, Funny, Floodplains, Skopje, The Source, as well as the critically acclaimed Extinction and CQ/CX (John Gassner Outer Critics Award nomination). His short play, The Grave, was the winner of the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival. Gabe was the recipient of the Samuel French/New School for Drama Award for Excellence in Playwriting, and his play CQ/CX was included in the Smith and Krause anthology "New Playwrights: The Best New Plays."  A graduate of NYU and The New School for Drama, Gabe lives in New York.

 

Jason Gerace (Director) is a freelance director in Chicago, and has been Artistic Associate of American Theater Company since 2008. He was the recipient of the 2014 Non-Equity Jeff Award in Outstanding Direction for his work on Great Expectations with Strawdog Theatre Company. Regional directing credits include Last Train to Nibroc (Haven Theatre, Chicago), Wrecks (with John Judd, Profiles Theatre, Chicago), Opus and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (RedTwist Theatre, Chicago), Hamlet (Oklahoma Shakespeare Chautauqua), Pygmalion (Oak Park Festival Theatre). Jason originally hails from Anchorage, Alaska and holds an MFA in Directing from The University of Oklahoma.  He is a resident of Oak Park, and an associate member of SDC.

 

Route 66 Theatre Company

 

Route 66 Theatre Company introduces, develops, produces, and exports new work for the stage. The road begins with our new play development process and reaches west, where our World and Chicago Premiere shows are given an advocate for further regional productions along the road less traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles. Since the company’s founding, Route 66 has produced 10 productions, 2 in two cities including an Off-Broadway premiere, been nominated for ten Jeff Awards and won two. Route 66 is now a resident company of The Den Theatre. www.route66theatre.org

 

Route 66 is Stef Tovar, Founder and Artistic Director; Rachel Wendte, Managing Director; Deborah Blumenthal, Director of New Play Development; Alana Parvey-Zalas, Business Manager; Matthew Bonaccorso, Company Manager and Kelly Parker, Casting Director

 

Route 66 Theatre Company Artistic Associates: Brian Sidney-Bembridge, Audrey Billings, Johnny Clark, Brandon Dahlquist, Raymond Fox, Damon Kiely, Ron Klier, Jenni Lamb, Tyler Meredith, John Mohrlein, Kelly Parker, Geoff Rice, Emily Rohm, Tricia Small, Jeremy Sonkin, Alex Stage, Nancy Staiger, Erica Stephan, Bethany Thomas, Rita Vreeland, Steven Wilson, Rachel Wendte and Emily Woods.

 

Route 66 Theatre Company Board of Directors: Jennifer Baumann, President; Deborah Haimes, Vice-President of Communications; Nicholas Stone, Treasurer; Molly Crabtree, Secretary; Elizabeth Derrico, David and Monica Byrd, Lee Dickson, James Frenzel, Laurie Hamilton, Tammy Rosenszweig, Pat Turnbull and Robert Veasey.

 

Route 66 Theatre Company’s 9th Season is presented by generous grants from MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation, Illinois Arts Council Agency and DCASE CityArts. 

 ###

 

Published in Buzz Extra

What can be said about a play as often produced as 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' With every company that takes on this landmark play, a new audience is given the opportunity to spend an electrifying evening with George and Martha. As legend has it, Mr. Albee is quite stringent about his work and demands absolute faithfulness to his scripts for fear of being shut down.

 

It would be impossible not to consider the Steppenwolf's 2010 Tony Award winning revival of 'Virginia Woolf' when discussing Chicago's relationship with this play. Any theatre company producing this play will rightfully have some serious competition. Though, under Jason Gerace's direction at Redtwist Theatre, you wouldn’t know it.

 

What Gerace and Redtwist have in their favor is an intimate performance space. For nearly three hours the audience sits among the living room furniture at George and Martha's. When the drinks slosh and the one-liners fly, it’s the audience who must shift to avoid getting hit. To that end, this highly atmospheric production feels more alive and certainly more first-hand. This is not an easy script to decipher, each line is almost a world onto itself, and it can be easy to zone out in the recesses of a large theatre. Here, the dialog seems very navigable, so as the intensity heats up it seems to unfold naturally.

 

Given the challenge of such intricate language, there's an inherent sense of staginess. Its sense of reality is thereby heightened by exceedingly articulate dialog. Jacqueline Grandt's Martha is just plain mean and the way she slithers through her cutting monologues is almost scary. Though her glimmers of fragility in such subtle gestures as watering eyes and quivering lip are hauntingly tragic. It underscores the character's emotional instability. Brian Parry plays George as the co-dependent husband who has reached his breaking point. The calm timbre of his voice never loses it's comforting sound even as he's putting the finishing touches on Martha and their guests. He's able to play it in the way that these characters get exactly what's coming to them. His triumph is very satisfying.

 

The parts of Nick and Honey can honestly be what makes or breaks this play. Their characters are largely only there to fuel the fire. Elizabeth Argus is pretty spot-on as Honey. Her look brings to mind Elaine from "The Graduate" and when she's called upon in a moment of dark revelation, she delivers. It's not easy to play fake drunk without coming off as a cartoon character. Argus is very believable as she stumbles through glass after glass of brandy.

 

Redtwist Theatre has a very competent production on their hands. Grandt and Parry really understand their lines and because of that, both turn in rich performances that quickly cut through the melodrama. The artistic staff at Redtwist has also made this production pleasing to the eye in costume and set design. If you need another night with George and Martha, this is a storefront revival not to be missed.

 

 

Through October 11th at Redtwist Theatre. 1044 W Bryn Mawr. 773-728-7529

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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