Playwright: Mark Medoff
At: Infamous Commonwealth Theatre at the Storefront, 66 E. Randolph
Phone: 312-742-8497; $15
Runs through: March 25
BY MARY SHEN BARNIDGE
Our story begins on a farm in the Southwest owned by the widow Samuels, a retired high school teacher grown disillusioned with her former ideals. Her advertisement for a hired hand brings her—wait for it—a bicycle-riding Ph.D. in mathematics who explains, 'I'm not prepared to embark on my adult career.' The maternal ex-tutor reaches out to this overeducated waif, and all is serene until the boss lady's alcoholic Hollywood starlet daughter—you heard me—returns home for some R&R and proceeds to lounge about the ranch in skimpy attire.
Author Mark Medoff has forged a reputation on personalities governed by turbulent emotions bypassing common sense with never a casual glance. The Homage That Follows might be a cautionary tale of a crazed fan stalking the object of his celebrity obsession, or it might be a lurid thriller recounting the progress of a sociopathic killer fatally united with his perfect victim, or it could even be the sorry case of a shy young nerd driven to madness by two frustrated women delighting at the chase, but shrinking from the catch.
Since Medoff seems not to have made up his mind ( citing four notably dissimilar sources for his inspiration in a playbill note ) , Infamous Commonwealth Theatre director Jason Kae also opts to default, making for wide contradictory swings in subtext as actors trained to search for through-lines struggle to reconcile their characters' misguided behavior and nebulous motives while uttering such weighty pronouncements as 'You wield your intelligence like a weapon!' Playing the two ill-met brats on a collision course, Rian Jairell and Erica Peregrine navigate their text's inconsistencies with alacrity, but only Franette Liebow, in the role of Samuels materfamilias, succeeds in suggesting a foundation for her persona's decisions above the immediate demands of the plot.
Medoff may fancy his play a tragedy, with disaster arriving slowly and inexorably, as bystanders look on helplessly. Indeed, he provides us a chorus in the local police chief and public attorney, whose hindsight observations are nevertheless flawed by their past involvement with the parties in question and their own present agendas. But our universe today offers more choices than those available to the ancient Greeks, and since we are told the identity of both the murderer and the deceased at the outset, our response to the events leading up to the violence is more impatient exasperation than shivery anticipation.