Playwright: Bryan Delaney
At: Redtwist Theatre,
1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
Tickets: 773-728-7529 or
Runs through: July 17
Redtwist Theatre's production of Bryan Delaney's The Seedbed is an oddity. Like the characters onstage, the show is warm yet distant, and filled with love and disgust all at once. Like an optometrist's eye chart, no matter how hard you stare at that blurry numeral, you can't quite make out if you're seeing theater that's bone-chilling or melodramatic.
Hannah and Thomas, a middle-aged Irish couple, have just turned a corner on a particularly nasty patch in their relationship and are ready to welcome their estranged daughter Maggie back home. But Maggie returns home to celebrate her parents' anniversary with her new, much older fiance Mick, whose presence brings gently simmering tensions to a boil. The family has done something devastatingly irredeemable, but they are dedicated to keeping those actionsand the culprita secret from all others.
What results is almost a family-drama whodunit: Was it Hannah, the jealous, overbearing mother? Was it stepdad Thomas, who spends a suspicious amount of time in his shed with his collection of birds? Or was it Maggie, who ran to Holland to escape her family's prying eyes?
Author Bryan Delaney devises what seems like a thousand ways to keep the family's secrets from spilling for duration of just one more scene, but the process starts to feel manufactured. Think of all the soap-opera revelations that begin with one character patting the couch and stating, "We need to talk about last night," while the other character refuses. The Seedbed is full of these moments, but thrives in spite of them thanks largely to Mick. The role is a welcome breath of South London air, as he bombards us with dirty flower shop sexual innuendo and tales of his parents' sexual escapades. Who did what hardly matters when the delightfully grizzled florist charms us with nerve and backbone.
Jacqueline Grandt ( Hannah ) and Mark Pracht ( Thomas ) manage the task of humanizing two very cryptic characters gracefully. For The Seedbed to function as something of a staged mystery, the two must navigate increasing tension, higher stakes and possibly the tiniest stage in Chicago. Abby Dillion ( Maggie ), too, will make you think twice about trusting your instincts about a character who hasn't quite escaped the clutches of bad influence. And there's hardly room enough to contain the charm and ferocity of Adam Bitterman ( Mick ), who might as well pack up the scenery and take it home, because it belongs to him.
Director Steve Scott has served up an odd mixture of compelling and frustrating theater that I am at a loss for how to recommend. I will say this: Let your tolerance for Irish accents, poetic food fights and Cockney stories be your guide.