REVIEW: The Infernal Machine (InnateVolution Theater)


An old tale gets an updated retelling


Infernal Machine logo

InnateVolution Theater presents
The Infernal Machine
Written by Jean Cocteau
Directed by Dr. Beverle Bloch & Raymond K Cleveland
The Call, 1547 W. Bryn Mawr (map)
through Nov 21  |  tickets: $20  |  more info

Reviewed by Keith Ecker 

The first thing you’ll notice about InnateVolution Theater ProductionsThe Infernal Machine is the venue. The play occupies an unorthodox space, a gay bar specifically. A ring of chairs lines what is normally used as a dance floor while sparkly music videos of disco divas blast on monitors, serving as a strange sort of pre-show.

I’m a firm believer that environment plays a significant role in the theatrical production. And I usually love novel settings. But the choice to perform Jean Cocteau‘s surrealist take on Oedipus in a gay bar where patrons at times spoke over the performers during the first act seemed like a bit of a mistake. Admittedly, by the end of the play, the ambient chatter had quieted down, but it was always a presence and always served as a distraction, even when the actors delivered some pretty strong performances.

But the bar did have a large screen, which was obviously a necessary technical requirement for this play, written by a man known for his offbeat film work. And although I would have liked to have seen more intermingling between the live action of the play and the minimal action that takes place on the screen, the use of visual projections does help establish setting, given the production’s minimal props on stage.

The play itself is a fairly ancient story. It’s the tale of Oedipus, the young man whose future is foretold to be a great tragedy. He’ll one day murder his father and marry his mom. It’s a tale of tragic destiny and the futility of trying to avoid our predetermined futures. It’s also a tale of humility, as Oedipus slowly realizes that even he, conqueror of the Sphinx, is subject to the same rules that dictate all of mankind.

This is my first time to see Cocteau’s version, and from what I gather, it’s basically the same as the original tale minus the ornate poetry of Grecian writing. The language is contemporary; the characters resemble modern-day archetypes. The story is still set back in ancient times, but the characters possess an attitude that make them more relatable to those who live in the here-and-now. Take for example Queen Jocasta (Erin Cline). She’s a drama queen and a half, vamping for the audience and overreacting every time someone steps on her scarf. Cline does a brilliant job bringing this diva to life, making her a very engaging character to watch.

Another wonderful character, and a great comic relief, is the wise old adviser Tiresias (Arne Saupe). Saupe brings to Tiresias a clever sensibility and vaudevillian comedic timing. After all, the old man is blind, which lends itself to a lot of ironic sight gags, and Saupe uses this to full effect.

Much of the rest of the acting is uneven. Experience level seems to vary widely from performer to performer, which serves as a distraction when a scene lags because of one character. At times, the play verges on high school pageantry.

Still, this is a small production by a small theatre company, and overall it is an entertaining show. If you don’t mind a bit of background noise while watching a play, InnateVolution’s The Infernal Machine is a fun night out.

Rating: ★★½

Performances run November 5 – 21, 2010 at The Call (1547 W Bryn Mawr Ave)
in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago..  Regular performances are Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  Tickets are $20 and include 1 well liquor, house wine, or Miller drinks.



Production Personnel

Directed By Dr. Beverle Bloch & Raymond K Cleveland
Stage Manager Rachel Hadlock
Videography by Jon Kurinsky
Scenic Design by Mary Ann Moore
Costume Design by Rozetta Cleveland
Lighting Design by Will Dean
Sound Design by Thom Britton


Erin Cline – Queen Jocasta
Ashley Coney – Soldier
Amy Dellagiarino – Officer and Drunk
Jordan Laroya – Anbuis & Old Shepard
Arne Saupe – Tiresias
Caro Servat – Sphinx & Messenger
Joesph Ramski – Oepidus & The Old King
Ethan Weiss – Young Soldier


Arne Saupe

Caro Servat
Erin Cline

Jordan Laroya

Amy Dellagiarino

Ashley Coney

Ethan Weiss

Joseph Ramski


Ensemble Bios


Writer, producer, director, and educator, Dr. Beverle Bloch (Co-Director), holds a BS in Speech from Northwestern University and both an MA in Mass Communication and PhD in Theatre from the University of Denver. Bloch has taught courses in Communication, Theatre, and Speech at colleges and universities including the University of Denver, Bowling Green State University, Lewis University, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian College, and Triton College. She serves on Chicago’s Jeff Awards Committee. Bloch has directed more than 30 plays in Chicago and on college campuses.

Raymond K. Cleveland (Co-Director), co-founder of InnateVolution Theater Productions, makes his directorial debut. Cleveland has worked on several Non-Equity Jeff Award Winning productions with Theo Ubique including Cabaret, Jacque Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night and Evita.

Erin Cline (Jocasta) makes her InnateVolution debut. She has appeared in shows such as An Experiment with an Airpump (Ellen/Susannah), Beanie and the Bamboozling Book Machine (Gretel), Much Ado About Nothing (Beatrice), Macbeth (Ross), and Ah! Wilderness (Belle).

Ashley Coney (Soldier) holds a BA in Theatre from the Conservatory Of Performing Arts at Point Park University. Her Chicago credits include Chicago State theatre as well ETA.

Amy Dellagiarino (Officer/Drunk) recently moved to Chicago. Other Chicago credits: Another Saturday Night (Appetite Theatre), Good Drugs For People Who Like Bad Drugs (Revolution Theatre), and Betty Gone (Champagne and Milk Theatre Company). Off Broadway credits include Much Ado About Nothing (Hero), and other New York credits include Company (Amy), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Monica), Henry VI(Margaret). Dellagiarino has a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Jordan Laroya (Anubis/Old Shepherd) received his BFA from Cornish College of the Arts in downtown Seattle. He participated in the 08/09 season Milwaukee Repertory Theatre’s internship program. Since then he has worked as a Shakespearean actor in Iowa and up and down the East Coast. Playing roles such as Tyrell in Richard III, Tom Snout and Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. He has recently moved to Chicago.

Arne Saupe (Tiresias) returns to InnateVolution after appearing in Right as Rain. Saupe has recently appeared in Republic County and The 24 Hour Plays at Gorilla Tango and T-What at Second City.

Caroline Servat (Sphynx/Messenger) makes her Chicago debut with this production. She graduated from Bates College in Maine with a BA in Politics and Theater. She has received additional theatrical training at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and has acted with The Marin Shakespeare Company and The San Francisco Playhouse.

Joseph Ramski (Oedipus/Old King) is making his Chicago debut with InnateVolution. A native of Chicago, Ramski recently graduated from the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana with a BFA in Acting.

Ethan Weiss (Young Soldier) is a graduate of Skidmore College and has very recently moved to Chicago. He spent five months at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA as a member of the acting conservatory. In 2007, he traveled to Russia by way of the National Theatre Institute where he studied abroad with the Moscow Art Theatre.


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