Review: Run-of-the-Mill (Currently Untitled Theatre)

  
  

When ‘Run of The Mill’ happens to good actors

  
  

scene from "Run-of-the-Mill" by Tyler Dean, presented by Currently Untitled Theatre.

  
Currently Untitled Theatre presents
  
Run-of-the-Mill
  
Written by Tyler Dean
Directed by
Nate Silver
at
Act One Studios, 640 N LaSalle,Suite 535 (map)
through Feb 26  |  tickets: $20 |  more info

Sometimes people tempt fate. That seems to be the case with the title of the world premiere production of Run-of-the-Mill by Tyler Dean at Currently Untitled Theatre.

This is the story of a family dealing with the foibles and failings of modern life while trying to avoid the mistakes of the past. This is a noble and fecund premise but the seeds lay fallow in spite of some good acting.

scene from "Run-of-the-Mill" by Tyler Dean, presented by Currently Untitled Theatre.This story follows two marriages. Cynthia and Darryl are parents to Stacy, David, and Collin. Darryl has been unemployed for over a year and things are getting tense. Cynthia is a hard driving real estate agent who is fighting to live down past mistakes.

Brit Cooper Robinson, playing the part of Cynthia, balances the role without coming off as brittle or shrill. Patrick Rybarczyk is wonderful as the ever-optimistic Darryl.

Andrea DeCamp, as a daughter who is struggling with graduation dreams and a marriage proposal, is cool and unaffectedly hip in her portrayal. She and Robinson have a good dynamic as mother and daughter.

Mike Hahalyak and Dan Toot play brothers David and Collin respectively. David has messed up his marriage to Donna (Virginia Marie) and Collin is home from Iraq with a less than honorable discharge.

All of the ingredients are in place, but the writing is stilted and weak. Dean takes a long time with the expository elements of the characters. Though much angst is expressed over the dissolution of David and Donna’s marriage, we aren’t told why until after the intermission in the middle of the second act. Ms. Marie does a beautiful and subtle job of suppressed rage and sexual rejection. Hahalyak is appropriately penitent but by the time we find out about her infidelities – who cares? Hahalyak’s David is given a worn excuse of ADHD and depression for screwing around. It’s a punchline; not a reason. This storyline is so drawn out that it feels like an episode of the retro soap “Search for Tomorrow”.

Collin comes home from Iraq packing a bag of weed in his duffle and dishonorable discharge papers. Dan Toot is great as a kid soldier who grew up through combat. He portrays heartbreak, and there is a subtle hint of post- traumatic stress syndrome simmering. The ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ repeal seems thrown in as an afterthought. It’s not why Collin is ejected from the Army but the real reason is less compelling.

scene from "Run-of-the-Mill" by Tyler Dean, presented by Currently Untitled Theatre.The second act does not continue with the stark mystery but jumps right into an ill- conceived series of flashbacks. The soundtrack plays Huey Lewis and the News’ ‘Power of Love’ just as in ‘Back to the Future’. (Some Marty McFly humor would have helped.) What happened to Cynthia and Darryl is what happens to thousands of families and therefore it’s ‘run of the mill’. That doesn’t make for a great night at the theater. To be certain, there are families whose lives are ordinary and mundane, but I go to the theater to see a more tense dynamic or a story that I haven’t heard before. If I’m going to watch a soap opera, then somebody needs to be held captive in a well or Granny’s in the attic living in Imagination Land.

There are other kinks to be worked out in Run of the Mill”. The staging is rather clumsy. Did anyone think to put brakes on the casters? Moveable sets should not keep moving in the middle of the scene. Why do props in some scenes and then completely expressionistic in others? Is this a fleshed out story or a workshop in invisible burger flipping? Go for the fake food. We know it’s not real and in that case go for the satire, for this story has that potential: “Ward and June discover something happened to the Beaver in Iraq. Will things ever be the same on Morning Glory Lane? Tune in for the finely crafted acting!”.

  
  
Rating: ★½
  
   

scene from "Run-of-the-Mill" by Tyler Dean, presented by Currently Untitled Theatre.

Run of the Mill runs on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 through February 26th at Act One Studios,  640 N. LaSalle in the West Loop. Go to www.currentlyuntitledtheatre.org for more information on the company and the actors.  All photos by Gretchen Allnutt.

 

     
     

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REVIEW: Songs for a Future Generation (Lights Out Theatre)

Dancing to its own tune!

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Lights Out Theatre presents

Songs for a Future Generation

 

Written by Joe Tracz
Directed by Mary Rose O’Connor
At EP Theatre, 1820 S. Halsted

Thru March 13th  (more info)

By Katy Walsh

What does the future hold? The good news is dance parties! The bad news is no lobster! Lights Out Theatre Company presents Songs for a Future Generation. Set in the future, in a galaxy far, far away, Songs for a Future Generation imagines the SFAFG1continued challenges of hosting successful theme parties, searching for ‘the one’, and saving the… rock lobster. It is present day themes with science fiction twists. The party hosts are clones. The love seeker is a time traveler. The seafood advocate is an  intergalactic fugitive. Songs for a Future Generation is multiple stories unfolding during a series of dance parties. Watching the show is like being a wallflower, you are delighted by the rocking bash but uncertain how to engage in what’s happening.

The cast rockets with pure octane energy. The best moments are the choreographed (Anna Lucero) dance sequences involving the whole cast. The ensemble is perfectly in-sync in the dance. They bop with such enthusiasm, it feels like you are gawkers at the cool kids’ party rather than an audience at a play. As Marika clones, Andrea DeCamp, Hailey Wineland and Annie Lydia Litchfield do a wonderful job being unique while being in unison. Jaclyn Keough (The Kid), looking like an androgynous “It’s James Dean,” was fascinating to watch in her antics to rescue the rock lobster. Jonathan Matteson (Error) is the lovestruck time traveler bringing old school charm to a hedonistic generation. The costumes (Bradley Burgess-Donaleski) and hairstyles are a fun, sexy, hot mess.

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For any dance party to be successful, certain elements must be present. For Songs for a Future Generation, there is definitely the right music, dance and energy. The buzz killer is often straddling the party balance between “too much” and “not enough.” In the dance numbers, keeping the large cast in step together is impressive. In scenes, where the action is low and the cast is hugging the walls, the stage’s emptiness is “nobody came to my party” awkward. The script also becomes party victim to “too much” or “not enough.” Although there are multiple storylines to follow, the content is light and frothy. The plotlines are basic and predictable. The rave is definitely the boogie. Life is a collection of celebrations. Every festivity doesn’t have to be legendary. Treat Songs for a Future Generation like the eye candy at a party, he’s pretty to look at but a strong connection isn’t necessarily present. It’s a fun hour without any emotional or intellectual commitment. Sometimes, it is just about dancing!

Rating: ★★★

Running Time: One hour and twenty-five minutes (no intermission, 10 minute delayed start).

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