A smattering of audience members occupies the few eclectic chairs and benches placed sporadically throughout the room. The only indication that this space is a theater comes from the small square stage in the center of the room. It is as intimate a performance space as possible, evidenced when one of its two cast members enters the room to begin the play- this is Lela, played by Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel with masterful poignancy.
Lela & Co. is not a play for the faint-hearted. Written by Cordelia Lynn, Lela & Co. consists of a series of monologues by Lela describing her experience being sold into sexual slavery. She is interrupted throughout her story by the different men who mistreated her, ruined her, and failed her. Chris Chmelik, displaying incredible versatility, plays every one of these men.
Lela tells her story with grace and spirit, somehow managing to inject humor into her story even as her words grow more and more horrifying. Cordelia Lynn’s spectacularly emotional script pairs well with Robin Witt’s intricate directing. As Lela speaks she moves around the room, addressing specific audience members, sitting on couches, at one point even standing on a table. Lighting designer Brandon Wardell accompanies her movements with perfectly crafted lighting choices, capturing the mood of the story at every moment. Every choice, from acting to directing to lighting to use of costuming and props, amplifies the feelings of heartbreak and horror that build in the audience throughout the performance. By the end every single audience member is completely moved, and the standing ovation is immediate- and highly deserved.
This writer would recommend Lela & Co. to anyone wishing to be emotionally moved and challenged by an incredible play. Not recommended for audience members looking for a fun, light visit to the theater.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
1115 W Berwyn Ave
July 13-September 16
Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 PM
Sunday at 3 PM