Theatre in Review

Tuesday, 16 January 2018 03:42

Review: Five Mile Lake at Theater Wit

With the homecoming and family-visit season safely in the rear-view, Shattered Globe presents a new play by Rachel Bonds about the places we come from. “Five Mile Lake” is directed by Cody Estle, his first production with the company.

Bonds writes about a feeling that many city transplants can relate to all too well. “I can’t believe I managed to spend 18 years there,” she says of her small hometown in the stage notes. Though Bonds seems to have escaped small town life at a young age, her script is not a snobby look down her nose at small town America, in fact, it’s almost the opposite. There’s a longing for a perceived simplicity in this play. The irony is that no matter where you live, complexity is unavoidable.

‘Five Mile Lake’ is about five characters in a town outside Scranton, at the edge a frozen lake. The symbolism is not lost. Local coffee shop coworkers Mary (Daniela Colucci) and Jamie (Steve Peebles) live fairly uneventful lives until Jamie’s older brother returns with a new girlfriend and an open-ended visit.

In many ways, this is a retelling of Chekhov’s masterpiece ‘Uncle Vanya’. Mary and Jamie seem to toil endlessly in their dismal lives. Jamie works on a lake house his brother Rufus (Joseph Wiens) and girlfriend Peta (Aila Peck) are suddenly interested in when their impressive city-life turns to shambles. Mary is bogged down by a shell-shocked brother Danny (Drew Schad), all the while dreaming of a life outside Five Mile Lake. Between these desires for other circumstances are subtle, but wholly palpable, moments of truth.

Shattered Globe is an ensemble theater and most of their productions feature familiar faces. The result is a sense of intimacy between actors that translates to an audience. There’s a naturalistic cadence to Rachel Bonds’ dialogue too. Sometimes inside-jokes or silliness between characters seems contrived on stage. Whenever Daniela Colucci is in a scene, you feel like you’ve known her all your life. There’s something really authentic going on here. Estle gets great performances out of even the smallest, non-verbal moments of the play. A scene in which Rufus and Mary’s older brother Danny run into each other after years of estrangement is so fraught that just a searching look from Drew Schad is enough to break your heart.

“Five Mile Lake” is a prime example of why you should see new work. Sometimes it’s a gamble, but other times in the middle of an ordinary Sunday you find yourself completely invested in the problems fictional characters. You take them with you, because they are you.

Through February 24th at Shattered Globe Theatre. Theater Wit. 773-975-8150

Published in Theatre in Review
Friday, 16 September 2016 16:17

Review: Shattered Globe's "True West"

In a Sam Shepard play, rarely are things what they seem. His 1980 play "True West" is no exception. Under the direction of James Yost, Shattered Globe Theatre tackles this modern classic. "True West" is often considered part of a family saga by Shepard that includes his 1979 Pulitzer Prize winner "Buried Child." 

 

Austin and Lee are two brothers who couldn't be more different. Austin (Kevin Viol) is an upstanding writerly type who we first meet hunched over a typewriter in his mother's kitchen. Lee (Joseph Wiens) is his hulking older brother with a checkered past. Austin is working on a script in his mother's house while she's on vacation. Hoping for some peace and quiet, he's interrupted by Lee whom he hasn't seen in five years. Over the course of Act I, we watch as Lee and Austin battle for superiority through frustratingly inane questions. The moment of reckoning comes when Lee highjacks Austin's meeting with an important Hollywood executive. 

 

What the play points to in American culture is that bullies win. Bullies get what they want and being a polite makes you weak. This theme couldn't be more relevant as we look to a certain unpresidential candidate running for president this year. No matter how much evolution we have to the contrary, human nature is that the strongest eat first. Austin and Lee can be interpreted as two parts of the same mind. Shepard often opines on the perception of masculinity. "True West" explores the duality we all possess. 

 

There's a special place in Chicago's theater community for "True West." It was one of the first out-of-town successes of a then fledgling theater company, The Steppenwolf. Gary Sinese and John Malkovich starred in the principal roles. It transferred off-Broadway in 1984 and helped establish The Steppenwolf as one of the best regional theaters in America. 

 

Director James Yost's vision for this show is faithful. The set by Greg Pinsoneault drops us right into 1980. Sarah Jo White's costumes are also very authentic. Performances are this production's strongest asset. Kevin Viol's breakdown between Act I and II is hilarious. While Joseph Weins' character stays mostly static throughout the play, his commitment to the grossness of extreme masculinity echos Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalksi. Shattered Globe's production of "True West" shows their knack for bringing topical themes to classic works. 

 

Through Oct 22nd. Shattered Globe Theatre. 1229 W Belmont Ave. www.theaterwit.com

 

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

Police brutality is nothing new. Having it broadcast on national news sources, however, is. The deep South in the 1960's wasn't a fun place to be if you were anything but a Christian Caucasian. Shattered Globe Theatre concludes its twenty-fifth season with Matt Pelfrey's adaptation of John Ball's best-selling novel "In the Heat of the Night." The film adaptation starring Sidney Poitier went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. 

 

Pelfrey's script keeps with the original time and setting, but adapts with a degree of hindsight. He's also good at keeping the pot boiling until the final conclusion, even if the dots don't exactly connect in the end. With the success of TV series like "Making a Murderer" and the podcast "Serial" - audiences can't get enough crime thrillers. What these all seem to have in common are police inadequacy. A disappointing trend among rural police forces. "In the Heat of the Night" tells the story of a small town reeling after a local real estate tycoon is murdered. The prejudiced, and largely incompetent law enforcement can't seem to find a suspect. After they accidentally profile an African American from out of town, they get help from an unlikely source. 

 

Louis Contey directs a large, and talented ensemble cast. Unfortunately the script is a bit clunky in parts. Too many entrances, exits and costume changes make for a puzzling caper. There's fun in the noir-esque stylings of Contey's vision, but it conflicts with the bigger themes this source material addressed. Character development suffers and the message of Ball's original novel gets a little muddled in empty one-liners and racial slurs. There's a major opportunity here to make biased police officers more three dimensional and Drew Schad as Sam Wood does his best to navigate the dialogue. Joseph Wiens' performance as Chief Gillespie is intense, but at times cartoonish. Christina Gorman as the victim's daughter is a high point, however brief. 

 

"In the Heat of the Night" is a sultry, and somewhat topical thriller. Its brevity and mathematical approach make for a satisfying murder mystery. What it occasionally lacks in substance it makes up for in exciting stage combat. An atmospheric who-dunnit, akin to "Twin Peaks." 

 

Through June 5th at Theatre Wit. 1229 W Belmont Ave. 773-975-8150.

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

10 Years! Fave Issue Covers

Register

Latest Articles