WINDY CITY TIMES
Garage Rep 2015
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times
This article shared 2033 times since Wed Mar 18, 2015
Playwright: Steven Simoncic, Topher Payne, Taylor Mac. At: Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted St. Tickets: 312-335-1650; www.steppenwolf.org; $20 ( or all three for $45 ). Runs through: April 26
The annual Garage Repin which three young, small and diverse theater troupes are hosted and marketed by Steppenwolf Theatre Companyis one of the most worthwhile artistic endeavors the 'Wolfies have undertaken in recent years. The troupes usually rise to the occasion by staging works of theatrical size and pizzazz which they might not attempt strictly on their own. All three of this year's wildly divergent offerings are well-produced and performed, and are noted here in ascending order of outlandishness.
Cold Basement Dramatics' Heat Wave is the most normal of the shows. It's a dramatization by Steven Simoncic of Eric Klinenberg's muckraking book about the fatal 1995 Chicago heat wave, during which more than 700 people died while government stood unresponsive and mostly unaware. Simoncic's play first was presented in 2008 and seemed more powerful then than now. Heat Wave is partly documentary and partly fictionalization, and it's the fictional wing that's hard to take as morgue officials, mayoral bureaucrats and TV newspersons behave with blatant and simple-minded unprofessionalism. Sure, it will raise your ire just like the parking meter deal and Rahm's arrogance, but it's also without nuance although well-staged by Rinska Carrasco-Prestinary and a generally-sympathetic and competent cast.
Presented by Pride Films and Plays, Angry Fags is out playwright Topher Payne's cautionary tale about misguided vigilante justice. When a friend is gay-bashed into a coma, housemates/best buds Bennett and Cooper take the law into their own hands, and things escalate. Bennett works for an out lesbian state senator up for re-election, so there's a major political subplot as well. What starts as slightly campy comedyPayne's comic zingers are laugh-out-loud funnymorphs into tragedy. The radical change in temperament is sustained only by one's perception that the entire play is outlandish, although performed in slice-of-life sitcom style by an attractive cast under director Derek Van Barham.
Take heaping portions of polyandrous genderfuck and old New Age radical politics ( i.e., hippie-type political and sexual movements ) and you have The Walk Across America for Mother Earth, written by performance artist Taylor Mac and presented by Red Tape Theatre. Much of the material is sharply funny in this rambling pseudo-1992 peace/protest march gone awry, but much is intentionally offensive ( bestiality, a "menstrual rag puppet" ). The production ( in which actors of any gender can play any role ) is colorfully meta-theatrical and almost psychedelic as if the Merry Pranksters had been reborn. Directors Bonnie Metzgar ( late of About Face Theatre ) and Eric Hoff and their designers have provided vastly creative, energetic and well-executed staging ideas. Still, a little goes a very long way, and even Taylor's wit cannot sustain consistent interest over the two-hour running time. For old protestors such as myself, there's a very dated vibe about it all, even though the play is quite recent.
Garage Rep 2015: Ya pays yer money, ya takes yer choice!
This article shared 2033 times since Wed Mar 18, 2015
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