WINDY CITY TIMES
||THEATER REVIEW House Party, 1923: Obsession
by Mary Shen Barnidge
This article shared 5019 times since Wed Jan 6, 2016
Playwright: Bill Meincke. At: The Annoyance, 851 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: 773-697-9693; www.theannoyance.com; $15. Runs through: Feb. 5
From 1991 to 2005, an ensemble called The Free Associates affirmed, not only the existence of an audience well-versed in classic fiction, but the willingness of those bibliophiles to return, night after night, to see a fully improvised long-form play referencing such literary icons as Tennessee Williams, Eugene O'Neill and the sisters Bronte. Playwright Bill Meincke takes the do-it-yourself concept a step furtherright over the fourth wall, in factby inviting our participation in a fantasy of flaming youth and the "Lost Generation."
As the show's title indicates, the year is 1923, and we are guests at a summer party on the estate of multimillionaire R. Thomas Cooper. Since nobody appears to recognize the host, the revelers introduce themselves to us and to one another. For example, an affable young man reveals that he is Francis, a writer who has just published his first novel, This Side of Paradise. We also meet his wife, Zelda, along with a gruff war veteran given to enigmatic aphorisms, curious neighbor/stalker Theresa Buchanan, a sharp-tongued dowager addressed as Aunt Margaret and several other vaguely familiar personalities.
If your sole encounter with F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway in the last four decades is the CliffsNotes and/or SparkNotes versions, be assured that this is not a quiz and that while a working knowledge of The Great Gatsby or The Sun Also Rises is helpful, it is not necessary to the evening's agenda. The themes shaping the progress of the festivities are hardly unique to any specific eraadulterous obsessions, wealth accumulated by dubious means, moral dissonance engendered by a recent war and the subsequent breakdown of traditional social values, all fueled by copious consumption of illegal liquor.
This style of interactive storytelling normally relies heavily on rehearsed personnel propelling spectators through the action with platoon-sergeant efficiency, but such crowd control is harder to pull off in a small room seating only a few dozen spectators, rendering first-time playgoers slow to comprehend the production's framing concept and their part therein. Fortunately, Meincke and director Susan Glynn have kept the scripted portion of their scenario brief ( clocking in at a little under an hour on opening night ) to allow for expansion as jazz-age bookworms and Roaring-Twenties mavens grow more comfortable with immersion in that razzle-dazzle risk-taking epoch preceding the onset of the Great Depression. Oh, and for those unaccustomed to mingling with strangers, there's always Parker Callahan's score of vintage vodeodo ditties. Charleston, anyone?
This article shared 5019 times since Wed Jan 6, 2016
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