The House Theatre is known for showcasing “intimate, original works for epic story and stagecraft.” There is quite a lot packed into that small mission statement, but DIAMOND DOGS certainly only serves as proof that The House Theatre succeeds in their promises.
The House Theatre Presents DIAMOND DOGS
Adapted by Alastair Reynolds and Directed by House Theatre Artistic Director Nathan Allen, DIAMOND DOGS is based on the science-fiction adventure by Althos Low. The story follows a team of six scientists and soldiers who set out to examine an alien tower. Childe (Chris Hainsworth) brings the team together for their particular strengths in intelligence and combat, all to be led by Captain Forqueray (Abu Ansari). We quickly learn that the tower clearly wants no intruders, and with each clue that brings the team closer to understanding its purpose, they take get one step closer to a potential point of no return.
This particular story fits into Reynolds’ sixteen story set: Revelation Space Universe. Low’s adaptation is full of suspense, and certainly acts as if it is an installment in a larger world of adventures. While I may have a liked a little more closure at the end, there is a cliffhanger that leaves the audience wondering what will happen next, which looking back, adds another level of intrigue.
To what end will we go to find the answers, and at what cost? Each suspenseful turn of events plays to this key question and more over the course of adventure.
Stellar Tech and Design
Helmed by Allen, the DIAMOND DOGS design team has succeeded in creating another world for all the senses.
Scenic and Lighting Designer, as well as House Theatre Company Member Lee Keenan utilizes the small intimate space of the Chopin Theatre in a creative manner, succeeding in drawing us into this universe through a theater-in-the-round setting. While the set elements are limited, the few Keenan uses are certainly effective. In the middle of the space is an elevated platform on which the story takes place – reminding us that that this world exists above and outside our own. Keenan includes two movable door-frames, acting as a symbol for moving in between rooms within this tower. The pieces would light up in various colors depending on whether the explorers made the right or wrong choice to enter the room, which only raised the stakes, especially when combined with the sound elements.
Sound Designer Sarah Espinoza in collaboration with Composer Kevin O’Donnell increased the tension through loud, and rhythmic musical pieces that would repeat throughout the performance. The scientists had to solve puzzles in order to determine when it was safe to enter a room, and when a wrong choice was made, the sound team repeated the same loud, “error” bell. The choice was certainly effective in increasing the suspense, especially as the events unfolding became worse. I found myself anxiously wondering what would happen next, especially when the volume increased, and the repetition became more frequent.
Costume Designer Izumi Inaba utilized color in a great way, which enhanced the stage aesthetic. In particular though, her choices in the design for Trintignant were especially striking. This doctor has used questionable methods to enhance his being – making him almost unhuman. Inaba’s design makes him look other-worldly in an understated manner, fitting into the simplistic design of the stage.
Lovely Ensemble Effort
DIAMOND DOGS is about a team trying to survive – and the ensemble as a whole worked well together. The various personalities of the characters melded beautifully, and created some nice moments of tension when they clashed.
Some standout performances included Elana Elyce as Hirz with her spot-on comedic timing. The script included some snarky, sarcastic humor, and she rose to the occasion wonderfully, making her scenes some of the funniest moments in the play.
Joey Steakley as the Doctor had a challenge in that his face was covered by a mask – we could not see his facials, and he had to express in different ways. However, Steakley showcased some excellent physical acting abilities that helped push the character across. The Doctor has a menacing, eerie feel to the character that Steakley shared through flowing gestures that often invaded the personal space of the others on stage.
DIAMOND DOGS involved use of puppetry, and the main puppeteer, Lindsey Dorcus, as well as Chris Hainsworth (Childe), Katherine Keberlein (Celestine), and John Henry Roberts (Switft) handled the task beautifully. Their grace helped the puppets become an accepted part of this world and their characters, which enhanced the overall aesthetic.
Creative design and an exciting story make DIAMOND DOGS a show you do not want to miss! If you have a passion for science fiction, get your tickets before it is too late.
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.
Through March 5, 2017
Thursdays at 8:00pm
Fridays at 8:00pm
Saturdays at 8:00pm
Sundays at 7:00pm
Run Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, with intermission
The Chopin Theatre Upstairs
1543 W Division St
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.