Review: Red Tape Theatre’s “Mouse in a Jar”

  Despite flaws, “Mouse In a Jar” is a feast of horror

 Red Tape MIJ Pic 1

Red Tape Theatre presents:

Mouse in a Jar

by Martyna Majok
directed by Daria J. Davis
thru October 31st (buy tickets)

reviewed by Paige Listerud

Red Tape Theatre’s world premiere production of Mouse In a Jar, by Martyna Majok, is just the sort of no-holds-barred, absolute commitment that always brings excitement to Chicago theatre. Majok’s play is flawed, but it is also a riveting and poetic drama, relaying the tragic story of an immigrant woman chained in a basement, forced to sexually serve a nameless man, even in the presence of two growing daughters. Recalling daily news about trafficking and domestic violence, Mouse In a Jar brings forth feminist themes, constructing their realism within a horror genre, all the more searing for asserting that there is no way out.

Red Tape MIJ Pic 3 Martyna Majok’s work still shows all the signs of a young playwright struggling to develop structure for her vision and voice. She has won awards for previous work—among them, The Merage Foundation Fellowship for the American Dream, The Olga and Paul Menn Award for Playwriting, and first place at 2009’s Big Shoulder Fest (ATC). Enough here signifies Majok as a young playwright to watch out for.

However, Mouse In a Jar still suffers from a few critical flaws. The introduction of a new character in the middle of this 80-minute one-act disrupts the dramatic tension that cast and crew have already worked to a terrifying crescendo. It’s a cold start all over again, for both play and actor, Ben Gettinger, to establish his character Fip, as an integrated element to the story. That, and the cross dialogue between Fip, Daga (Tamara Todres) and Ma (Kathleen Powers) in the second half, creates more confusion about who is addressing whom than rebuilding lost tension. What attempts to be compelling dramatic analysis on the codependence of victims, Stockholm syndrome, or repeating patterns of abuse—with all their BDSM overtones—strays into a jumbled, frantic mess.

A lesser production could flounder under these shifts, but Daria Davis’ directorial vision and her cast have a never-say-die attitude.  Both their effort and imagination are uncompromising. No doubt, the strength of Majok’s poetic language and savvy humor helps to keep the fire burning.

Through it all, Kathleen Powers centers and grounds the production with her visceral portrayal of a woman surviving day-to-day imprisonment, sexual slavery, and loving but violently compromised parenthood. Powers performance shifts so quickly from motherly affection to wickedly wry insult to terrified, hypnotic resignation, one can almost see the strands of the entangled servitude to which she has submitted.

That servitude does not spare her daughters, Daga and Zosia (Irene Kapustina), who witness every night at 9 pm, the rape and subjugation of their mother by HIM, played convincingly by Don Markus. Kapustina’s delivery of Zosia’s lines fulfills the poetry of the play, but, unfortunately, some gets lost due to the poor acoustics of the brutally realistic set. The production’s theatre-in-the-round places the audience in the same imprisoned space as the characters, but care should be taken not to lose dialogue.

The relationship between Ma and Daga forms the vital center of the play, a relationship filled with intense love and merciless scarring. “Enjoy your rape,” Daga says, frustrated by her mother’s denial of all her attempts for both of them to escape. Todres pulls out all the humor possible as the desperate, sly Daga. “I’m home,” she tells Fip, as she manipulates him into her final rescue plan, “People are different when they’re at home.” But it will take stronger technique on from both Todres and Gettinger, and cleaned up direction, to clarify their confrontation with Ma’s adamant refusal to go with them.

There certainly are things to forgive about this production, but overall, Mouse In a Jar remains a compelling achievement in terror.

Rating: «««

 

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Theatre-goer favorite, Garrett Popcorn, celebrates 60th-Anniversary

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Commemorating their 60th-Anniversary, Garrett Popcorn has announced that they will reopen their Michigan Ave. shop.  The grand opening will take place on October 15th, where festivities will include: 

  • 10 a.m. until noon – FREE small bags of  Garrett Popcorn’s irresistible Chicago Mix;
  • If rain, Garrett branded ponchos for customers in line, while supplies last;
  • “Scratch and Win” cards will be given to everyone in line for FREE one gallon tins
  • 60th Anniversary commemorative T-shirts and soft drinks
  • upgrades; and for 15% and 20%  off purchases. (A number of these cards also will be available at other Garrett locations in honor of the Mag Mile opening).

More info here.

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Winner of the “Best Typo Ever”

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h/t: Daily What » Daily Dish