1. Writers Theatre
The artistry of the production was beyond reproach: a good play by our (English speakers’) greatest living playwright insofar as I can determine, directed by Robin Witt, one of Chicago’s finest directors. The play is a two-hander, likened in the playbill to a Twilight Zone episode which comparison is apt. The actors were commanding, the set impeccable.
(This insert from the program is another matter: just the thing I dislike when artists (or artistic venues) try to put themselves into the educational domain. What self-respecting artist (or artistic outfit) would stoop to this? The reverse side, with questions like “What do you think compelled Caryl Churchill, a feminist, to write a play with no women?” is worse yet.)
2. Jackalope Theatre
Jackalope has come a long way. The production still evinces a lack of money. Their performance space above the gym at the Broadway Armory has gotten refined since the early days, but still leaves something to be desired. (The company contracted a storefront nearby but persists at the Armory, I'm not sure why.) The set was serviceable, but little more.
What a contrast with Caryl Churchill’s play at Writers. There the production values were top notch. The script flowed seamless, its major defect being a reliance on too much David Mamet-style writing (incomplete sentences). But, more than that, it felt mainly the working out of an idea—not quite with the sterility of a Tom Stoppard play but in that ballpark.
The script—by Kenneth Lin—moved forward in unexpected directions yet remained consistently well-balanced. Five actors—mostly excellent—were well used. In tandem, they provided nuance and soul, something genuine, without a shortage of ideas if however sans a grand overarching one like Churchill’s (her play dealt with cloning).
We paid $5 for the preview; regular tickets will be $30. You may not see the value there. But if you come by that easily, or can snag a free seat, it will get you a glimpse of the best of grassroots Chicago theater. We do not “insist that our theatre be… dull”.