Theatre in Review

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

Bard Fiction retells the cult classic Pulp Fiction, transplanting the story in time and space to London 1614. Cool cars become carriages, motorcycles become stallions, guns become swords, a quarter pounder becomes cottage pie and drugs…. well they stay drugs! Written in Shakespearean prose by Ben Tallen, Aaron Greer, Brian Watson-Jones, and the members of the Pulp Bard Wiki, it recreates the Quentin Tarantino hit a truly creative way.

Presented by Commedia Beauregard at the City Lit Theater, the play follows the unconventional and somewhat disjointed storyline of Pulp Fiction very closely.  If you are not familiar with Pulp Fiction, this may make the play hard to follow.  Similar to watching a Shakespeare play, it can be tough to really catch all of the intricate dialogue but if you listen closely it will be sure to have you laughing as you catch the inspired translation from the original. 

The acting was well executed all around with Julius (Steven Royce) and Vincenzio (Josh Zagoren) being true standouts and really channeling the original roles played by Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta. Accents were a bit all over the place but everyone was committed to their characters. The costumes by Jackie Davies, based on the original design by kClare Kemock, took modern textiles like jeans and terrycloth bathrobes, and converted them into Elizabethan era designs. My initial impression was that it was a cheap, budget version of proper Shakespearian costumes, but they grew on me as the show went on and I started to appreciate the homage to the early 90’s fashion of the original.

City Lit Theater is a small black box style theater and the play was staged with very limited set pieces. Produced as 16 scenes, they used a few tables, benches and chairs to set the stage. The original movie had no score but instead used an eclectic mix of music, with a particular focus on surf music. For Bard Fiction, Joe Griffen brings back some of the iconic songs of the movie that sound like they are being played on a harpsichord and a lute, helping to transition us from scene to scene.

Before seeing this show, I re-watched Pulp Fiction. Thanks to that, I was able to pick up on some more subtle jokes and appreciate the unique “translation”. It was an entertaining show and will be sure to please fans of the movie. Those who have not seen the original, or did not like the original, I would recommend either skip this or better yet watch the movie on Netflix before catching the show. It will certainly heighten the experience.

Bard Fiction will be playing in Chicago at the City Lit Theater through August 2nd.  Purchase your tickets at www.cbtheatre.org or by calling the box office at (312) 487-1893.

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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