Steep’s “Bobbie Clearly” Review – Hell Breaks Loose in the Cornfield

Steep Theatre's Bobbie Clearly

Metaphors and Mind’s Eye Imagery

Summoning you with the first of many metaphors in this image-rich script, the policewoman and sometime Sunday school teacher-- played with utter mastery by Melissa Riemer—opens the play by recounting the day when all hell broke loose in the cornfield.   What might in another context seem to be the epitome of life’s cornucopia in the orderly rows of corn, is a place in her understated telling that is more like a jungle. It is so thick and high with corn one can almost hear growing that you can’t see anyone or anything right before you.

In a Vividly Described Place

From that launch we then meet the town folk, each in turn recounting that moment in the cornfield when the town’s collective life was turned upside down.  The power of Alex Lubischer’s script is in delaying the straight telling of the who-did-what-when facts of the pre-story. Instead, we meet the town folk grappling with the aftershocks of the big event. Forget those jingoistic “you will fry in hell” billboards a road tripper will see as they traverse West through Nebraska. These are people who truly and deeply are grappling with the question “What Would Jesus Do”?

It comes as no surprise to learn that the playwright hails from such a town. There is love of people and place oozing from his pen. It might be a reluctant love – a fact of his life that is immutable as lamented by the brother of the girl lost in the cornfields, an off-beat and complex character played with great nuance by David Fisch.

Steep Theatre's Bobbie Clearly

Flawless Acting from entire Bobbie Clearly Cast

Actually, the entire cast shimmers with sensitivity to the people they bring to life on an almost bare stage that is sometimes wrapped in spot-on affect match music. (Sound Design & Original Music: Thomas Dixon). Perhaps it’s the touch of Director Josh Sobel , but one suspects he just unleashed the cast “talent show”—“talent show” being another script metaphor demanding that you mull it over and over again.

(Cast members, in addition to Riemer and Fisch include: Nick Horst Joel Reistsma, Roy Gonzalez, Paloma Nozicka, McKEnzie Chinn, Miguel Nunez, Erika Napoletano, Tom Jansson, and Carson Schroeder in the title role.)

Above All, a Story That Clings To You

Go to Steep’s production of “Bobbie Clearly” knowing that the story will likely linger in your heart and mind. You may be bothered that the title character doesn’t show any signs of the one-time bully. Actually, in Carson Schroeder’s performance, he seems borderline waif.   Then again, revisit the plot lines and you realize this could be passive-aggressiveness taken to an entirely new level.

How apt that the playwright gives this character whose motivations remain so invisible and deeply troubling to those around him the name “Bobbie Clearly”.   If you see him clearly, you may be the only one to do so.

A finalist for the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, “Bobbie Clearly” was developed in part through workshops and a public staged reading at Steep in 2015.

Steep Theatre's Bobbie Clearly

When:

Now through November 19, 2016

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8pm
Sunday matinees at 3pm (October 9, 16, and 30)
The performance on October 22 will be at 3pm.
The performance on October 29 will feature audio description and a pre-show touch tour, which will begin at 7pm.

Where:

Steep Theatre

1115 West Berwyn, Chicago, IL

 

Tickets:

General Admission Tickets: $25

Reserved Seat Tickets: $35

Access Tickets: $10 (Steep’s universal discount for students, artists, whomever)

Call (773) 649-3186 or visit www.steeptheatre.com

Steep Theatre's Bobbie Clearly

Photo credits, from top to bottom:

1- in slider rotation, starting with closeup of pianist--

Carson Schroeder in Bobbie Clearly at Steep Theatre. Photo by Gregg Gilman; 

Melissa Riemer and Carson Schroeder (l to r) in Bobbie Clearly at Steep Theatre. Photo by Gregg Gilman; 

Paloma Nozicka and McKenzie Chinn (l to r) in Bobbie Clearly at Steep Theatre. Photo by Gregg Gilman; 

Carson Schroeder in Bobbie Clearly at Steep Theatre. Photo by Gregg Gilman; 

Tom Jansson and Miguel Nunez (l to r) in Bobbie Clearly at Steep Theatre. Photo by Gregg Gilman;

Nick Horst and Carson Schroeder (l to r) in Bobbie Clearly at Steep Theatre. Photo by Gregg Gilman.

 

2-Melissa Riemer in Bobbie Clearly at Steep Theatre. Photo by Gregg Gilman.

 

3-Erika Napoletano in Bobbie Clearly at Steep Theatre. Photo by Gregg Gilman.

 

4-Joel Reitsma in Bobbie Clearly at Steep Theatre. Photo by Gregg Gilman.

 

5- Roy Gonzalez in Bobbie Clearly at Steep Theatre. Photo by Lee Miller

 

This review is excerpted in Theater In Chicago

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