REVIEW: Bash (Brikenbrak Theatre Project)

 

Trio of one-acts reveal the possible evil in us all

 

Brikenbrak art gallery - Mill Stream by Joyce Speechley

   
Brikenbrak Theatre Project, i/a/w Gorilla Tango Capital presents
   
Bash
   
Written by Neil Labute
Directed by Paul Cosca
Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western (map)
through October 31  |  tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

Deathbed confessions are absolution rites to get to the afterlife. Reality show confessionals are bragging rights to get to the after-show-life. Bash is the telling of deep dark secrets for both release and vanity. Brikenbrak Theatre Project, in association with Gorilla Tango Capital, presents Bash, a trio of one act plays by Neil Labute. Ipigenia in Orem has a businessman pick-up on a woman in a hotel bar. The woman gets screwed when the anticipated hook-up turns into the guy’s walk-of-shame sans the sex. A Gaggle of Saints has a college couple recount different versions of a big party in the city. Despite their privileged and religious upbringing, the students aren’t as pure as the ‘dirty people’ they ignore. Medea Redux has a scorned woman share a revenge plot fourteen years in the making. BASH is the disturbing stories of three-of-a-kind ordinary people, all challenging the definition of humanity. Brikenbrak poster - Bash by Neil Labute Society is taught to believe that there is good in everyone. What if deep, deep down, a person is bad? And unremorseful? And sitting in the next seat on the train? BASH is ‘ataxia,’ the Greek word for ‘world out of balance.’

Master storyteller Neil Labute has written three monologues with authentic dialogue and details. Under the direction of Paul Cosca, the narratives are unsettling interrogations. Cosca stages the audience in a horseshoe around two chairs facing each other. Each theatre patron receives a number on arrival. Three guests will take turns sitting in the judgment seat. (It is not forced participation. When a number is called, silence ensures a ‘pass’ to the next number). Taking a turn opposite the actor, I had the best seat in the house for Ipigenia in Orem. In dual roles, Cosca is also the nervous businessman and I’m the pick-up. The experience is real, intimate and uncomfortable. Throughout his discourse, Cosca keeps suggesting I have another drink from the imaginary mini bar. (I wish I could). Cosca shuffles through smaller stories mixing up timeline. As the listener pieces it all together, Cosca goes from pathetic geek to shrewd businessman… to the umpteenth degree. Cosca is awful…good.

In A Gaggle of Saints, Graham Jenkins (John) and Kirby Brown (Sue) have a duet monologue. From good families and church goers, the perfect couple describes in enthusiastic detail how pretty their relationship looks. Jenkins’ presence personifies big-man-on-campus with a carefree stance. Brown talks ‘mob wife’ with perky willful obtuseness. She wants security and nice things and doesn’t mind a little blood. Jenkins flashes a smile and rage with the same glee. Jenkins suppresses and oppresses hate. Jenkins is bloody…brilliant.

In Medea Redux, April Taylor describes her childhood sweetheart, her teacher. Taylor shares a long-kept secret with fond memories of love that spurred into revenge. Her cadence is matter-of-fact as she describes the innocence of youth and fast forwards to the burden of adult understanding. Taylor’s account of vengeance satisfaction is unemotionally emotional. Taylor is scary…great.

With Labute’s words and Cosca’s direction, the realization of human evilness in non-Hitler types – a guy in a bar, kid in church, gal at KFC – is a deep dark secret revealed. Bash whacks with an intensity that leaves a bruise… permanently!

   
   
Rating: ★★★
 
 

Brikenbrak art gallery - There are Secrets by Layne Jackson Brikenbrak Theatre Project is proud to present an art gallery entitled "Visions of Secrets", to accompany our newest production, Bash, by Neil LaBute.

Twelve artists from all around Chicago have submitted over 40 paintings, sculptures, photographs and installations for the gallery, including Layne Jackson‘s "There are Secrets" (left) and Joyce Speechley‘s "Mill Stream" (top of review).

The twelve artists included in the gallery are Julia Lynn Haw, Layne Jackson, Joseph Budka, Maral Hashemi, Lisa Pantoja, Ricardo Gonzales, Erika Cespedes, Chrissy Scolaro, Chris Helton, Clark Bending, Michelle Korte Leccia, and Joyce Speechley.

 

Running Time: Ninety-five minutes with no interruption

   
   

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REVIEW: The Samaritan Syndrome (Brikenbrak Theatre)

Are you a victim, a savior or both?

 

claire-anthony

 
Brikenbrak Theatre presents
 
The Samaritan Syndrome
 
by Jeremy Menekseoglu
directed by Paul Cosca
at
Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee (map)
through May 25th  tickets: $12  |  more info

reviewed by Robin Sneed

Set in the chilling world of mental asylum turned brothel for customers with a penchant to save the women residing there, The Samaritan Syndrome takes us on a journey through the post feminist landscape of relationships between women with a  pathological need to be rescued and men who are desperate to be saviors.

Jeremy Menekseoglu’s tightly written play in one act, hits hard in its description of a cycle between women who have become so victimized their knights become victims in their attempt at salvage.. Heroic efforts are transformed into pathetic trudges towards the last remnants of traditional societal roles. The exchange of manipulation Rosenberg finds in both savior and saved, the script of this trapped dynamic, whose only outlet becomes violence, is dead on. This is an entropic world in which there is a flatness that barely covers killing rage.

Directed with an even and deeply caring hand by Paul Cosca, this is an ensemble piece deftly samaritansyndromeperformed by Anthony Stamilio, April Taylor, Brooke Elbrecht, Claire Kander, Nathan Randall, Sarah Grant, and Whitney LaMora.

Anthony Stamilio as Mr. Suit, carries the lead with force, playing a man searching for a woman he has lost, trying to redeem her, failing, and ultimately giving over to an outcome that is as shocking as it is inevitable.

Saint, portrayed by Brooke Elbrecht is the woman Mr Suit has been looking for. She sits waiting for her lost love in an almost Chekhovian longing that mirrors Mr. Suit’s long search for her. Elbrecht plays this role guilelessly as the woman with a bent for positive psychology. Her stark refusal to believe Mr. Suit’s summation of the man she loves as con man, becomes an inciting force, turning Saint into a woman who unravels Mr. Suit with his own expectations of their future relationship. With this, their fates are decided.

April Taylor gives a mature and steady performance as the Night Nurse of this asylum for those still trying to find meaning in a raging fantasy of knights and damsels. She subtlety creates a character arc in the personality split between her professional self and her own heroism toward women she cannot help. Her portrayal of a woman trapped in a role from which she is trying to break free is touched with nuance and depth. She is savior and victim, emerging only once in an attempt to save the despairing Mr. Suit from himself

Nathan Randall as Charming, gives a riveting performance as a man so deeply rooted within his cycle of abuse and salvation as to become evangelistic of the dynamic he is in. He is savior to the lost Grace, played energetically by Sarah Grant. She becomes the blithe purveyor of need as commodity. Grant delivers this complicated scenario with accuracy and humor, conveying complicity in the manipulation. She digs deeply to find the emotional cycle of abuse and release with her partner in this twisted space. The scenes between Grace and Charming reflect the core of this piece. The moments in which Charming confronts Mr. Suit, demanding he cry and show enough emotion to satisfy the requirement for savior, is a brilliant development, demonstrating the way in which the culture around these relationships is built.

Original music by David Rosenberg becomes part of the ensemble, bringing aural awareness to the dark quality of this theatre experience. This is the first piece from Paul Cosca’s Brikenbrak Theatre Project, and with this production of The Samaritan Syndrome, they have put themselves on the map as ones to watch.

 
 
Rating: ★★
 
 

samaritansyndrome

Review: Rubicon Theatre’s “Becoming Ingrid”

A Charming Tale of Transformation

 April Pletcher and Meg Harkins photo by Rory Tanksley

Rubicon Theatre Project presents:

Becoming Ingrid

Written by Liza Lentini
Directed by Jamie Stires
Thru December 5th (ticket info)

reviewed by Katy Walsh

Although Rubicon Theatre Project’s production, Becoming Ingrid, has all the makings for a psychotic stage version of “Single White Female,” spoiler alert: no one gets a stiletto in his eye.

Becoming Ingrid Meg Harkin and April Taylor photo by Bridget SchultzLead character Christine is unhappy and bored with her life. She reads a book and becomes infatuated with Ingrid, the author. Finding out that the real-life Ingrid (April Taylor) is actually teaching a writing course in Scotland, Christine moves to Scotland, determined to become a writer as well.  This obsession with Ingrid leads to her renting the adjacent apartment, collecting her discarded paper scraps, cutting off her hair, and enrolling in Ingrid’s class.

Meg Harkins, playing Christine, narrates Becoming Ingrid as if she is writing a story. Painstakingly choosing the right words throughout the play, Christine unknowingly transforms herself from damsel-in-distress to protagonist. Playwright Liza Lentini has crafted just the right words to make Becoming Ingrid a charming tale of transformation.

Delivering an energetic, enthusiastic performance. Harkins pulls off the delicate balance between idolizer and psycho. Christine leaves the dance floor to hunt down Ingrid in the ladies’ room to give her a handmade Christmas present. It sounds creepy, but the way Harkins does it with big-eyed nervousness, it’s ultimately sweet. Transformation continues to take main stage as actors take on dual roles. Billy Fenderson plays a sophisticated English artist and an obnoxious loud-mouthed Scottish student. Within moments of taking off her sweater, Heidi Katz goes from the bent over gregarious Scottish landlady to the uptight professor. Jessica Thigpen rounds out the trifecta transformation by switching between a Scottish student and a French artist. Kudos to dialect coach Lindsay Barlett for conversion direction.

Heidi Katz, Meg Harkins and Jeff Taylor photo by Rory Tanksley Jeff Taylor, April Pletcher and Bill Fenderson photo by Rory Tanksley
Meg Harkins and Jeff Taylor photo by Rory Tanksley Meg Harkins photo by Rory Tanksley

Becoming Ingrid has a running time of two hours with a ten minute intermission. In 22certain spots, the activity on stage drags ever so slightly. To continue its transformation, director Jamie Stires could tighten up the scenes. Any lasting makeover requires additional moments of cinching it. Katie Schweiger has adorned the set with books and page-covered walls. These are reminders that Becoming Ingrid is the well-written tale of a wannabe writer’s obsession with a successful writer. Because of that, there is a certain amount of pressure to end a review with just the right crafted words to convey meaning: Go see it, and become a fan of the talents of small Chicago theatre companies.

 

Rating: ★★★

 

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