Greenhouse Theater Solo Celebration Finale
Closing out the first year of their Solo Celebration series, Greenhouse Theater Center is presenting the Chicago premiere of John Walch’s hilarious dark comedy Circumference of a Squirrel, a story about a man’s journey to eventually exorcise the hate he holds for his father—a hatred that has been instilled into him.
The man, Chester, begins by letting us in on his childhood when his father would swing him on a rubber inner tube in the back yard. Barefoot, the father gets bitten on the foot by a squirrel, which then develops into a hatred of the furry creature. Chester believes that although his father, who went through rabies treatments as a preventative, still managed to have the symptoms.
Rabbis is the Greek word for Rabies which translates into “violence”. And, Chester’s father does indeed have violent prejudices, especially toward Jews. This hatred eventually wreaks havoc on Chester’s life when he falls in love with Dara, a Jewish girl.
Playwright Walch is a Master Story Teller
Bitingly hilarious, while also profoundly tragic, Walch’s script is a masterpiece of fine solo performance theatre. It is a symphonic concerto of words and rhythm that captivates from the beginning Walch is a wordsmith and master story teller. He is as meticulous with the sounds of the words as he is with meaning. Some moments are lyrical while others staccato. He utilizes silence in a powerful and haunting way.
The 90 minute script is purposely disjointed and jumps to different episodes in Chester’s life, which Allan navigates beautifully through great detail, and reliving each moment of his tragically comic life. At times this is not an easy show to watch and you often cringe at the violence that takes place in the story. Then, the masterful playwright Walch shifts gears and has you on the floor laughing. You feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster at an amusement park. I never took my eyes from the stage or found my mind wandering, which usually does happen with new one-man works)
I will most definitely keep my eyes and ears open for Walch’s future work. If Circumference of a Squirrel is any indication of his talent, it will be something exciting to behold when he writes a full length play.
A Tour De Force for Chicago Actor Will Allan
In the role of Chester, Chicago actor Will Allan commands the stage and story from the start. This is an actor of magnificent comic timing, creating fully drawn characters through the use of his body and voice. One moment he is playing his southern church lady mother who has a mania for arts and crafts. The next moment, with hand on hip and an east coast Jewish accent, he becomes Dara, and then immediately becomes his stern southern father.
Allan is a wonderfully mercurial actor with immense technique and focus. I will never forget the image of him as a squirrel biting the inner tube out of my mind. The ferocity in his eyes is hilarious and telling. Allan is also a dexterous actor who, much like a squirrel jumping from tree to tree, can flip on and off emotions like a light switch.
Talented Designers Create A Storm of Color & Sound
Circumference of a Squirrel also boasts a great design team in Set Designer Grant Sabin, Sound Designer Jeffrey Levin, Projection Designer John Prisching and Lighting Designer Erik Barry. Together they have created a Beckettesque bleakness that suits the feel and tone of the story. Red is a dominant color throughout the piece and placing red lights under the planked flooring is highly effective. With the same dexterity as actor Will Allan, the design mirrors him as it shifts place and mood seamlessly throughout the 90 minutes,which fly by)
If Circumference of a Squirrel is any indication of the quality of Greenhouse’s Solo Series —and many of the solo shows have received rave reviews—they are on to something unique and much need in the Chicago theatrical landscape. I applaud their efforts and hold them in high regard for launching so many new, great new works.
I highly recommend Circumference of a Squirrel for a profound and highly entertaining evening out in the theatre. I guarantee you will leave laughing and rethinking some of your own actions and the damaging impact they can have others. A much repeated phrase throughout the evening is “life is sacred. Be careful.” Oscar Wilde stated a similar theme in Lady Windermere’s Fan that applies to Circumference of a Squirrel, “actions are bad, but words are terrible”.
January 20 – February 27
Thursday through Friday at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 2:00pm and 7:30pm
The Greenhouse Theater Center
2257 N. Lincoln Avenue
Available at www.greenhousetheater.org or by calling 773-404-7336.