Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Reflection: A Month of Development

Steadstyle Chicago
by Alan Bresloff

Chicago is indeed becoming THE Theater town to reckon with. With all that we have going on right now, we are no longer "the Second City" when it comes to culture and live theater. One of the wonderful projects that Mayor Daley and his staff have taken on is the Storefront Theatre and the Chicago DCA ( Department of Cultural Affairs) Theater. Many shows are brought to these stages by local troupes in their infancy and beyond. Audiences get to witness these productions, often at a very low cost ( sometimes free). What a wonderful city Chicago is!

One of the new theater companies, Promethean Theatre Ensemble just spent a month using the DCA to incubate some new plays they have created- to hone their craft and get audience opinion as well as to offer some new concepts and ideas to a live audience. This troupe believes that a production should rely more on the words the author has written and the actors interpretation than the fancy sets and costumes and lighting. In other words, they want to sell the steak, not the sizzle. Tonight I witnessed three short pieces they have been developing this month- a special night of free theater and discussion in the Studio Theater located at The Chicago Cultural Center at 77 Eats Randolph Street.

These were short and sweet productions that are works in progress and have the ability to be expanded:

The first was a delightful little comedy called "Over Insurance", a love story of sorts about a young couple who loved each other so much, and were so concerned about how they could ever live without each other that the decided to purchase insurance so that in the event, one died before the other, the remaining spouse would at least be able to grieve well off. They opted for putting 9/10ths of their income into insurance and as they survived on almost food, their love dwindled along with their weight. They also had a bird they loved and so insured him as well. When he died, they used the money they were given to buy a large bird, to eat and upon doing so, they each decided that eating was of greater importance than their love and each puts poison in the coffee of the other expecting to be the survivor. As one might suspect, they both die and the 11 minute play ends.

The second play is a mystery called "The Moonstone" written by Wilkie Collins, alleged to be the first full length detective novel. In this adaptation for the stage by Brian Pastor, in about 13 minutes, I felt that Pastor had far to much narrative and not enough play. I had the feeling that Nick Lake and Thad Anzur could have done more had their been more actual dialog and less narrative.

The third and final play, adapted from the works of L. Frank Baum by Edward Rutherford ( who also did the adaptation of John Collier in "Over Insurance") is titled "The Peculiar Case of Dorothy Gale" and takes us on a different "trip" with the famous heroine ( from "The Wizard of Oz"). What really happened during the "twister"? Where did Dorothy really go? How did Toto come into the lives of the Gale family? Who is Glinda? These are some of the questions Rutherford poses in this 28 minute "readers theater" production with standout performances by Devon Candura as Dorothy ( I must say, she was also dynamic as one of the "chorus/postmen" in the first production and Paul Miller as Glinda ( also a delight as one of the postmen. Tom McGrath, Nicole Hand,Annie Hogan and Fred Ubele are the others in this cast and Ms. Hogan and Mr. Uebele the lovers in "Insurance".

The three playlets are short and simple and probably will be developed into something larger based on audience reaction. The opener and closer were the strongest of the three with "Moonstone" needing the most work. The troupe however, did accomplish what they set out to do- provide entertainment to an audience without the glitz and glamor- just strong acting and meaningful words allowing the audience to search within their own imaginations so they could interpret what they saw for themselves. They are new and growing- to learn more about them and what they will be doing in the future check out ( "The Last Unicorn" opens in October, "The Fantasticks" in February and "Spring Awakening" on April.

To learn more about what DCA has in store for you- good theater at affordable prices check out

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