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THEATER REVIEW Sender
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times
2016-04-27

This article shared 1170 times since Wed Apr 27, 2016
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Playwright: Ike Holter. At: A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells St. Tickets: 312-943-8722; www.aredorchidtheatre.org; $30-$35. Runs through: May 29

Jeez—what is it about these self-absorbed millennials? Don't they know it's about me?

So, exactly one year ago Lynx ( Steve Haggard ) disappeared. His girlfriend Tess ( Mary Williamson ), her best bud Cassandra ( McKenzie Chinn ), Lynx's bestie Jordan ( Steven Wilson ) and the police presumed him drunk and drowned in Lake Michigan, and mourned him as such. Now Lynx returns without explanation, reporting only that he lived off the grid in Wisconsin's Northwoods.

Tess doesn't want him back, yet kinda-sorta does because she hasn't really moved on; she drinks, instead. But Cassandra definitely wants him gone because she and Jordan married while Lynx was away and now she's pregnant. Cass doesn't want easily-susceptible Jordan to fall under Lynx's slacker spell again or, it's hinted later, his sexual spell. She offers Lynx $10,000 to disappear permanently the next day.

This world premiere by very hot playwright Ike Holter is drop-dead laugh-out-loud funny for most of its 90 minutes. Holter fills it with comedic riffs and set pieces for everyone but Cass—she's the grounded, sober one—and the production's beautifully performed by the four-person cast, under director Shade Murray. However, the serious point underlying the comedy appears to be the moment in our lives when we decide to grow up and assume adult responsibilities. Cass already is there but the others aren't, although they may cross the border in the 24 hours Sender encompasses. Millennials seem to take much longer to embrace adulthood—these four are in their late 20s—perhaps because they have too many toys.

Appealing performances and smart dialogue notwithstanding, some bits puzzle me—beginning with the title. Cass clearly has something ( and someone ) to lose, so the tension between her and Lynx is obvious. Lynx knows he's charming and seductive, and offers polyamorous pleasures to easily draw Tess and Jordan back into his orbit. However, his motives are obscure because Holter provides no information from before he disappeared. Who was he? What did he do? What goals or ambitions did he and Tess have? An audience cannot measure the effect of a journey unless we know its starting point, not just its finishing point.

Perhaps Holter is being symbolic: As his name suggests, Lynx is the lure of the wild, untamed and instinctive while Cassandra is the naysayer her mythological name suggests, the confirmed Apollonian reality check always opposing the Dionysian spirit.

Sender unquestionably is an audience-pleasing show—especially if you know what a "Disney horse" is, which I don't—and should be another widely produced feather in Holter's rapidly expanding cap. He could improve it by providing some exposition for Lynx and some evidence that Cass can smile. Mike Durst's graffiti-trimmed Chicago rooftop set is a joy, and Alexia Rutherford's costumes suit the characters' personalities.


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