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

   
   

Continue reading

REVIEW: Closure (Fringeelement Entertainment)

Anger management amongst friends

 

 Closure - Fringeelement Entertainment Chicago 2

    
Fringeelement Entertainment presents
  
Closure
   
Written by Jake Perry
Directed by Errol McClendon
at
The Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western (map)
through September 26  |  tickets: $15  |  more info 

Reviewed by Allegra Gallian

Closure tells the story of three friends brought together after five years since the mysterious death of their mutual friend, Maria. Catherine, Dennis and Matt fall back into each other’s lives over a Labor Day weekend as they relive memories, both joyous and painful, and look for a way to deal with the death of Maria and find closure with this whole chapter of their lives.

Performed in the Viaduct Theater’s black box performance space, the set of Closure consists of a classic cabin scene designed by Joseph Budka. Walls are decked with wood paneling, a couch sits center stage and various chairs, photos and books take up the rest of the space. The set gives off a definitive country feel with its simple, yet cozy style. The lighting, designed by Claire Sangster, adds warmth to the space with delicate pink lights illuminating the space.

Closure - Fringeelement Entertainment Chicago The show opens on Catherine (Sarah Brooks) entering the cabin and looking around at old photos. She’s followed by Dennis (Austin Talley), who arrives a few minutes after she does. Talley is immediately a strong force on stage, booming with energy as he enters. Both his actions and his words are lively and animated, and it’s clear that’s he’s very comfortable with his character. Brooks, on the other hand, comes off stiff in the beginning, slightly unsure of her movements, but eventually opens up when she and Talley begin to converse. Talley and Brooks have a strange chemistry between them that never really clicks. It’s a challenge to imagine they were once good friends reuniting.

Dennis and Catherine reminisce and discuss Maria’s death. Catherine then finds out that she was lured to the cabin under false pretenses. Dennis – claiming that Matt, Catherine’s ex-boyfriend, invited them – convinced her to come. Catherine threatens to leave just as Matt (Jake Perry) arrives. Taken aback, Matt questions why his old friends are suddenly in his private cabin. Perry, who is also the show’s writer, has effortlessness with Matt. An autobiographical character it seems in many ways, Perry easily fits into Matt’s skin and fully brings him to life.

Talley and Perry have a better chemistry on stage. Playing off each other’s lines and body movements, these two men are fun to watch together; it’s not a leap to assume they are old buddies. Matt and Dennis fall back into a pattern shared in years before. Brooks also has better chemistry with Perry, and it’s more believable that they used to date.

Perry’s play is generally well-written. Throughout Closure, there are many insightful lines and monologues, causing not only the actors to consider the words being spoken but the audience as well. That being said, in Act I, there is a lot of unnecessary swearing written into the scenes to demonstrate anger. It’s clear by the acting that these characters have pent up anger at both Maria’s death and at each other. The overused expletives detract at times from the action taking place and become a nuisance. The swearing-makes-me-sound-pissed-off is tempered in Act II, and scenes run much smoother. Since this is a show based on anger and loss, a bit more comic relief would be welcome to help ease the audience after particularly dramatic scenes. Additionally, the character’s back-stories are minimally told, and more foundation is needed – Dennis’ story in particular. He is the loosest cannon, with a crazy, wild anger running through him, and I found myself wondering exactly where the roots of that anger come from.

Closure - Fringeelement Entertainment Chicago 3

Whereas the first act drags a bit and at times feels forced, the second acts picks up speed as the actor’s settle more comfortably into their characters. Talley offers up terrific body language as he unleashes his rage on Matt and Catherine. In turn, Perry displays true, raw emotions, allowing the audience to see how damaged Matt is as a human being. Of the three, Catherine could be pushed further. Brooks is talented and surely has the ability to take her character further and really delve into the emotions that drive Catherine to behave and speak in the manner she does.

Closure’s ending offers some unexpected, yet very welcome twists. Although their lives are not sewn up as the production comes to a close, what occurs is quite appropriate and beautifully done.

   
  
Rating: ★★½
   
   

Closure plays at the Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western Ave. Chicago, IL, Thursdays to Sundays through September 26. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased through the Viaduct’s Web site.


Production Personnel

Playwright: Jake Perry

Director: Errol McClendon
Light Design: Claire Sangster
Set Design: Joseph Budka

Featuring: Sarah Brook, Austin Talley and Jake Perry