Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Zona De Guerra/Touch

I've been seeing a lot of short shows lately, which strikes me as an unusual trend for some reason, though not one I'm going to complain about. A lot of intermissionless shows and even a surprising amount clocking in at 75 minutes or less. Companhia Triptal's Zona De Guerra (In The Zone) at the Goodman came in at around an hour and was a perfect example of why this could be such a good development. The show, in a loamy distillation of O'Neill's ability to thrive within the sparsity of testosterone and isolation, locks us into tight quarters with this impressively dirty, feral, and tightly wound cast. Less an exercise in plot than one in situation (we all know from the get-go where this is headed, that there's not actually anything resembling a bomb anywhere on the ship), the intensity is allowed to pull from the paranoiac crew -- how primal will they let these false accusations go and how can they return after it's gone too far? Or, to crib from a certain other masterpiece of ferality, who will survive and what will be left of them?

It's a marvel of skeletal, succinct theatre. Intimate introduction, rapid descent, and rocky landing, and in no time at all, we're back on the street, trying to both shed our sea legs and regain our trust in the strangers surrounding us, a task Triptal renders surprisingly difficult for us. One of my biggest fears going in to the show was that, already having bought my tickets for the other two of the company's Sea Play triptych, I would be disappointed by the first and have nothing to look forward to. Instead, I very much plan on enjoying spending two more weeks with these guys.

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Toni Press-Coffman's Touch, now running at New Leaf, is a show that has all the makings of a impressive one act, if it weren't for that stubborn ol' Act Two. Touch's first act is front-loaded with a tale of love and loss, a 30+ minute monologue detailing astronomer Kyle's entire relationship with his now dead wife. It's a tale well told, brought forth by Dan Granata, who has repeatedly shown an uncanny knack for communing with the audience. If you're looking for someone to break fourth wall, Granata's your man -- his ability to instantly turn spectator into confidant is like none I've ever seen. So we take part in the intimate details of Kyle's love and marriage, learning the ups and the downs and then the tragic, fatal conclusion only hinted at through much of the first act. We become unreasonably attached to this man and his loss, and by the time the first act ends on a conclusive but open door, Granata has lead us by the hand straight up the perilous incline that is Kyle's back story. You could for many intents and purposes end the show at that point and the audience would leave with a long-living feeling of ache, but also recovery.

But Toni Press-Coffman says no. Toni Press-Coffman herds us back into the theatre and then bails on us. Now that we've staggered up a long and winding trail, she leads us to an elevator to get back down. After spending the first act painstakingly reliving the thrill, the ennui, the labor, and the nitty gritty detail of love, act two storms in the room with a big ol' ball of weighty cliche. Here there be hookers with hearts of gold, mysterious likenesses to dead folks, romances implausible in their speed, and a magical wrap-up everything's awesome in Hawaii (Hawaii?!?) ending that ignores three handfuls of loose ties, most of them emotional. Emotional ties that we weaved with Kyle in the first act. And he'll be fine not wrapping them up... he ends with the curtain. Not us, Toni. We carry that lack of closure with us into the cold, cold night.

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Also to be mentioned: I was at Shattered Globe's The Little Foxes on Sunday, but the show had to be called at the top of act two when an actress became suddenly unwell. I don't know if I'll be able to make it back (the schedule is extremely tight as we go into tech for Handuffs), but I wanted to make a quick recommendation for the show based on the first act alone -- a powerhouse work draped around three pillaresque performances by Don Bender, Kevin Kenneally, and Linda Reiter. I hope the cast is all up on their feet again and if I get a chance to go back, I'll certainly write more, but regardless, this is a show worth seeing.

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Speaking of shows worth seeing, ...And They Put Handcuffs On The Flowers is looming closer by the day. If you weren't already aware, this is a free show, which I mention in part because, Hey! It's a free show!, but also because, being a free show in a small space, reservations are required. Required as in Required. For real.

And not to play pushy, but we've already got a good deal of reservations made, the majority of which are not even in the family and friends crowd -- we've had inquiries from as far as Kansas City. So if you, family and friends, plan on coming, make your reservations now. I can't possibly express in text how excited I am for this show, so you'll have to trust me when I say you probably need to see it.

We run Thursdays through Sundays from February 5 - March 7th at The RBP Rorschach (a brand new space! three cheers for more performance spaces in Chicago!) directly on the corner of Irving Park and Ravenswood. And for all of you currently working in shows, we've got your back: seeing as how we can't really do industry discounts on a free show, we've instead designated the week of Feb. 23 - Mar. 1 as industry week. There will be no shows on Friday, Feb. 27 or Saturday, Feb. 28; instead, we will be performing an industry friendly schedule of Mon. 2/23, Wed. 2/25, Thu. 2/26, and Sun. 3/1. (We expect that Mon. and Wed. will go doubly fast, so you'll want to make those reservations today.)

Got questions? Want more information? Go to The Right Brain Project's website (to see me topless, no less). Or drop me line. Either way, we'll get you taken care of.

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This week in Rekkland: Friday is Urwintore's The Investigation at Chicago Shakes, Saturday is Steep's In Arabia We'd All Be Kings, Sunday is Companhia Triptal's Longa Viagem De Volta Pra Casa (The Long Voyage Home) at the Goodman, and Monday is a double bill of ATC and Congo Square's True West and Topdog/Underdog.

P.Rekk
2009

1 comment:

Nathan R. said...

I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on TOUCH. Your review nailed what I felt about the show. But I do think their design team deserves a shout-out, especially their lighting designer.