REVIEW: The Rant (Mary-Arrchie Theatre)

Mary-Arrchie’s ‘The Rant’ Illuminates and Devastates

Mary-Arrchie's "The Rant"

Mary-Arrchie Theatre presents:

The Rant

by Andrew Case
directed by Sharon Evans
at
Angel Island Theatre through March 28th (more info)

reviewed by Paige Listerud

Much about Andrew Case’s play The Rant masquerades as a typical cop show. There are interrogations with guys in police uniform across bare tables under unforgiving lights. All the same, the play’s dialogue is too whipsmart for television. It’s subject—an investigation of police misconduct—pushes beyond the conservative boundaries of cop/good-perp/bad formulas dominating network television. Finally, the sophisticated handling of media relations between public and police is all too knowing and wise.

rant2 Case invests eight years’ experience on police misconduct issues for New York City into this no-holds-barred one-act, and it shows—like a house on fire. The result is a sorely needed resuscitation of public dialogue on the hope of preserving justice in a system hideously compromised by racism, truncated by police cultural codes of loyalty and silence, and all too often cynically betrayed by the fourth estate.

Public Advocate Lila Mahnaz (Lindsey Pearlman) wants to get at the truth. The autistic son of Denise Reeves (Shariba Rivers) has been shot and killed during a police response to a call. Her own background as an Iranian Persian-American, informs her view of police behavior with jaundiced skepticism and almost revolutionary fervor. Her pursuit of the truth takes her down a winding road that exposes police corruption, the exploitation of and by the press, and the comprehendible, but frustrating, unreliability of witnesses. Her progress acts as a great meditation the difficulty of getting to the whole truth, encompassing many of the pitfalls of well-meaning advocacy.

Director Sharon Evans’ superlative cast nails this intelligent drama to the wall. Rivers’ aggrieved Denise, mother of the slain boy, packs a lifetime of angry suffering into every uttered syllable—it’s a weight she both resignedly shoulders and also wields as a weapon against her detractors. Pearlman’s public advocate displays the earnest pluck and self-righteousness of youth running smack into the roadblocks of police obfuscation and threats. At the same time, she is forced into confronting the barriers created by her own relatively privileged life. Earl Pastko as Mahnaz’s clandestine journalist contact, Alexander Stern, is perfectly sharp, jaded, neurotic, and totally New York. “I no longer believe in facts,” says Stern, “I believe in leverage.” Emanueal Buckley’s performance as Officer Charles Simmons potently rounds out the play. His sorrowful closing monologue seals the play’s mounting despair on the possibility of ever seeing justice done.

TheRant-Press1I’m of two minds about Heath Hays’ rough and ready set design. At times the primitively constructed flats—clear plastic stretched over wooden frames–serves Matthew Gawryk’s visceral lighting design superbly and fits the anarchist vibe of the Mary-Arrchie Theatre to a T. At other times it seems too ghetto-fabulous for its own good and there’s no need for that here. The play is already gritty and fabulous. The cast is rock-solid fabulous. Mary-Arrchie has a hit on its hands. Audiences should run, not walk, to see it.

 

Rating: ★★★★

 

Photos by Sharon Evans

Members of the Cast

Emanuael BuckleyEmanueal Buckley (Simmons) is delighted to be joining Mary-Arrchie Theatre for The Rant, his debut production with the company. He last appeared as Crooks in Of Mice and Men at Steppenwolf Theatre. He also appeared in Streamers and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot with the Gift Theatre, the latter having also been restaged at Victory Gardens. Previous to coming to Chicago, Emanueal toured with ArtReach, a division of Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati, where he appeared in multiple roles, including Satchel Paige in The Satchel Paige Story. He also toured with Theatre IV, traveling from Miami to Manhattan with shows that included The Adventures of Lewis and Clark and A Christmas Carol. Emanueal has also performed in Bratislava, Slovokia as a part of the English Language Theatre Festival and The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. Emanueal was honored to be hailed by the Chicago Tribune as one of six hot new stars to watch on the Chicago theater scene.

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Earl PastkoEarl Pastko (Stern) Returns to Chicago theatre for the 1st time in over 20 years. A founding member of Remains Theatre (THE TOWER; HARRY,NOON & NIGHT; MOBY DICK) – I’ve been living in Canada (mostly Toronto) and working in theatre, film & television for longer than I’d like to contemplate. I am very pleased and excited to be doing this play at the Mary-Arrchie, here in the birthplace of both me & my borderline career. Notable stage roles have included Heathcliff (WUTHERING HEIGHTS), Robert Mapplethorpe (BAN THIS SHOW), Creon (ANTIGONE), Nicola Tesla (TESLA ELECTRIC), Queequeg (MOBY DICK), Svengali (SVENGALI’S) & the artist/writer in LA RONDE. Those with further interest in my film work can check out HIGHWAY 61 by Bruce McDonald, THE SWEET HEREAFTER by Atom Egoyan and ECLIPSE by Jeremy Podeswa.

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Lindsey PearlmanLindsey Pearlman (Mahanaz) is very happy to work with Mary Arrchie Theatre Co. for the first time! She has worked with Ouroboros Theatre Company, New Millenium Theatre Company, Stage Center Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Theatre Wit (Two for the Show, Jeff Nomination/Best New Musical, After Dark Award/Best New Musical), Noble Fool Theatricals, The Gift Theatre Company, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, and Northlight Theatre. A graduate of The Second City Conservatory Program, Lindsey taught improv at St. Martin’s Episcopal School in New Orleans during the summer of 2009. She also tours the United States, performing in Sex Signals, a two-person play that utilizes improv and sketch comedy as tools to address the important issue of sexual assault and non-stranger rape. In 2007, Lindsey won the Chicago Monologue Match competition. Commercial work includes Pepsi Co., Boeing, American Dental Association, and Marriott. She is also the proud owner of Sit and Stay, a Chicago pet care company. Lindsey loves, worships, and cherishes her beloved family, friends, and four-legged babies. This one’s for my very missed grandfather, Mac Pearlman, who faithfully served as a NY fireman.

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Shariba RiversShariba Rivers (Reeves) is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she got her first taste of being on stage as a dancer for the Baton Rouge Ballet Theater, the Newcomb Dance Company and the LSU Dance Ensemble. Shariba has lived in the Chicago area for the past five years and considers Chicago not only as her new home, but also the place for a new phase in her life. Shariba made her theatrical debut as Lillie the Librarian in Elizabeth Nonie Sanders’s production of Rich Man, Poor Man at the Laugh Out Loud Theater in Schaumburg. Shariba is proud to add Denise Reeves as her second theatrical role. Shariba thanks her family and friends for their love and support.

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Sharon Evans (Director) co-founded Live Bait Theater in 1987 with John Ragir. She directed Memento Mori, inspired by the essays of Dr. F. Gonzalez-Crussi, Looking for a Soft Place to Land; written and performed by the Loofah Method and Anna Christie, all at Live Bait Theater. Her direction of solo works include Frankie’s Boy, written & performed by Tom McNamara, My Uncle Freddy, written & performed by Gloria Coco and Tales of Graceful Aging from the Planet Denial and Plastic Surgery or A Really Good Haircut? both written & performed by Nicole Hollander.

Evans also oversees Police-Teen Link, a ten-year-old program that brings together Chicago police officers and local youth through improvisation classes and creative writing. In 2006 Sharon Evans was hired as a consultant by the Chicago Police Department to help create and implement a series of Youth Forums, using many of the ideas she developed through the PTL program. Police-Teen Link has been featured on WTTW’s, Art Beat, CNN, and in USA Today.

In 2009 she was an artist in residence at Sullivan High School, (Rogers Park. Her students created original monologues inspired by their personal biographies which were later staged and performed at Raven Theater. She has taught at Chicago Dramatists and has guest-lectured at the School of the Art Institute, Loyola University and Columbia College. Evans holds a Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her play, Blind Tasting, received a Chicago Jeff Citation award for best new work in 2003.

One Response

  1. […] Rating: ★★★★ Source: http://chicagotheaterblog.com/2010/02/28/the-rant/ […]

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