Review: Verse Chorus Verse (Tympanic Theatre)

    
  

The Tragedy of Grunge, Redux

  
  

Dennis Frymire, Jon Penick, and Kevin Crispin - Verse Chorus Verse

  
Tympanic Theatre presents
  
Verse Chorus Verse
  
Written by Randall Colburn
Directed by Kyra Lewandowski
at side project theatre, 1439 W. Jarvis (map)
through May 1  |  tickets: $12-$15  |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Not being a slave to rock ‘n’ roll, I’ve listened, puzzled, to people exclaiming that a certain rock band or music genre saved their lives. I’m equally flummoxed at the notion that any single music artist could be dubbed “the voice of a generation”—there are, after all, so many voices and the most deserving frequently fail to receive widespread attention. Nevertheless, fame places crowns upon a few–that some musicians end in tragedy only serves to superglue that dubious diadem upon the troubled rocker’s brow. Such is the life and music of Kurt Cobain. Tympanic Theatre’s latest production, Verse Chorus Verse, pulls its audience into the milieu of grunge fans, reporters and revivalists marked by Cobain’s death. It’s as if, from the moment he pulled the trigger, time stopped and all hope of going forward was lost.

Actually, Randall Colburn’s interesting new play, under Kyra Lewandowski’s direction at the Side Project Theatre, begins at a far earlier point in the Cobain legend. Fourteen year old Polly (Victoria Gilbert) gets kidnapped, raped and tortured by Gerald Friend (Neal Starbird(left to right) Victoria Gilbert and Neal Starbird - Verse Chorus Verse), who lures her into his car after a punk rock concert–the very same Polly becomes the heroine of Nirvana’s eponymous song on their album “Nevermind”. Flash forward twenty years later, the older Polly now fascinates Garret Leskin (Kevin Crispin), a budding grunge star heralded as the new Cobain, who thoroughly believes that Cobain was murdered. The play’s structure oscillates between the past and present, between that fateful kidnapping and its emotional reverberations far into the future.

For all the dialogue around Cobain and the burden of living up to his legend, the story really belongs to Polly. Gilbert gives a passionate edge to her role’s pathos. Polly is drug-addicted, trapped in the past, and, since becoming enshrined in Cobain’s lyrics, hardly able to see beyond the boundaries of her own legend. The murder mystery that Garret hopes to unravel through her is tangled in half-cooked fictions, inchoate emotional desperation and age-old resentments over who got fame and who got left behind. Dennis Frymore puts in a tough, grilling performance as Mason Dwyer, lead of the Satanic Metal Band, Yeti, who has lost his guitarist Terry (Jon Patrick Penick) to Garret’s up-and-coming band, Samsara.

Lewandoski’s direction also hangs pretty tough—making the most of the black box at Side Project with a spare but versatile set by Dustin Pettegrew. She squeezes every moment for tension and suspense from her cast, shifting between scenes where rockers spar over competing narratives and otherworldly scenes in which Polly survives her kidnapping by Friend, moment by moment, under a starry sky. This doesn’t mean Verse Chorus Verse is perfect. A few fellow audience members confessed to being confused over its alternating shifts between past and present. Plus, the show will obviously carry more meaning for viewers steeped in rock culture. But both the work and production show sophistication, even with its characters’ simplistic pre-occupation with fame. Everyone just wants to be remembered, even Mr. Friend, in a chilling performance by Starbird, tries to be remembered by leaving his marks on Polly’s flesh.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

VCV_POSTCARD_WEB

Verse Chorus Verse continues through April 7th at side project theatre (1439 W. Jarvis), with performances Thursday thru Saturday at 8:00pm, Sunday at 7pm.  Tickets are $15 general admission ($12 for senior/student/industry), and can be purchased online. For more info, go to www.tympanictheatre.org.

 

Photos by Paul E. Martinez.

 

 

Continue reading

Tympanic Ensemble announces their 4th Season

Daniel Caffrey, Artistic Director of Tympanic Theatre, has announced Tympanic Theatre’s fourth season, which will continue their residency at The Side Project.  Tympanic’s upcoming season of new work features plays by long-standing Tympanic collaborator Joshua Mikel (writer of the NYC Fringe hit Good Good Trouble On Bad Bad Island) and Randall Colburn (Pretty Penny, Hesperia, and the upcoming Ghost Boxes and Half Shut). The company will continue joining exciting creative forces with Adam Webster, Artistic Director of The Side Project. 

 

Tympanic Ensemble Theatre’s

2010-2011 Season

 

Muerto

Muerte Del Maestro by Joshua Mikel

November 28th – December 22nd, 2010
Sundays at 7pm, Mondays through Wednesdays at 8pm at The Side Project (1439 W. Jarvis Ave.)

Set against the savage backdrop of the bullfighting world in Atlantia, Spain, Muerte Del Maestro tells the story of Arturo and Kay Kay, two best friends who are pushed to bitter ends after the death of famed matador La Muerte Negra, as they both seek the notorious matador’s vacant throne. This thrilling piece will be directed by Adam Webster, Artistic Director of The Side Project.

 

 

verse chorus verse

Verse Chorus Verse by Randall Colburn

April 7th – May 1st, 2011 

Thursdays through Sundays at 8pm at The Side Project (1439 W. Jarvis Ave.)

Twenty years after the death of Kurt Cobain, media attention is drawn to an up-and-coming musical artist who may be the reincarnation of the deceased rock legend. When a former lover of Cobain’s emerges from the past, she pulls the musician and several others into another dimension in an attempt to revitalize Cobain completely, but instead uncovers unsettling truths about addiction, destiny, and rebirth. Verse Chorus Verse will be part of a unique workshop process this Winter, culminating in a publicly staged reading at the end of January 2011, prior to its full production in April, which opens on the anniversary weekend of Cobain’s death.

Tympanic Theater annnouces 4th Season in Chicago