Last night we saw the last night of a good production, Strange Heart Beating at Cloudgate Theatre. This tiny company is new to me—unrelated to Chicago’s well-known Anish Kapoor sculpture that goes by the name “The Bean” but was christened “Cloud Gate” though that may have been an inspiration, and also (presumably) unrelated to Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan which comes to Chicago from time to time.
The play was mounted in Jackalope’s space on Thorndale (near the el) which Jackalope Theatre itself never seems to use, preferring the Broadway Armory a stone’s throw away from that. The space is matchbox size; yet the set filled it well, was perfectly designed to the play, and allowed for an imaginative versatility that was unexpected.
Kristin Idaszak’s play was not flawless—certain plot points passed credibility, yet those transgressions were excused by the medium itself—but held its own as far as showcasing a moral and thematic integrity ripe for our times (the Anthropocene). Upon reflection plot elements did not hold together, but they carried the story forward in the moment and sustained the theme’s high seriousness.
In a sense the script was the weakest link of the performance—that is to say, it lacked the polish of all the other facets of a good production on display (tempered, mind you, with the understanding that this was theater-by-shoestring, making up for a frugal budget with fully-engaged imaginative effects). But more broadly, the play was “the thing” as Shakespeare would have it, and all the polished technique could only have existed to serve such a play.
I haven’t taken an inventory of who we have writing for theater in Chicago today, but at this moment I would have to put Idaszak’s name to the fore of rising talent to watch. My intent is not that of reviewer, so delving into the script as such doesn’t suit my purpose—I, long past any direct involvement in the Chicago theater scene except that of playgoer—but it seemed important enough to take note of.