Welcome to Tech Day
Actors Equity contracts are the source of the title— the 12-hour work day with two hour dinner break for the final tech integration of a performance. Fussing and re-fussing, the stage manager orchestrates the cues of lights, set, costumes, etc. and how they integrate with the acting on the stage.
As you take your seat you first have to grab the earphones that are perched there to help you listen in on the tech staff chat. For Chicago theater fans it is great fun to hear our stages’ rock stars be the tech voices: Steppenwolf’s Martha Lavey as the lighting designer; Steppenwolf’s John Mahoney as a backstage crew person with an appetite; Peter Sagal of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me as the sound designer; and Barbara Robertson of Chicago Shakespeare among others as the costume designer who gets to weigh in on whether the female actresses need bigger boobs. These are pre-recorded voices with whom the on-stage live actors interact from time to time, most notably Dado in the part of the stage manager.
They are bored, we are not
The earphone chit chat wanders in and around topics on the stage and off, as we watch the actors in this play within a play and tech staff on standby try not to be bored out of their gourd. They might be fighting boredom, but we certainly are not!
It’s less a plot than a collage of moments. Yes, there are romances past and present in the tale, but it’s not a boy meets girl or boy meets boy story or anything akin to such narratives. Christine Vrem-Ydstie as the play within a play’s female lead charms us as she wiggles her hips seeming to explore the aerodynamics of her hoop skirt costume. Shane Kenyon as the indecisive director may be sitting next to you at some point taking it all in as he makes one after another request for 11th hour re-dos of his earlier decisions. Stephen Walker’s stentorian voice and presence as THE famed prima donna actor with no shortage of ego that all others tiptoe around, comes close to stealing the show. Though his is an outstanding performance in a fun role, it’s notable that all the other actors playing actors and others playing tech staff also deliver solid performances—Kyle Gibson, Eunice Woods, and Gregory Fenner, Riley McIlveen, Erin Long, and Adam Shalzi in addition to the aforementioned.
10 Out of 12 must be fun to perform and even more to direct (Director: Jeremy Wechsler). You will likely feel this.
Theater Wit gives Chicago a theater insiders story ideal for our city
The promotional materials about 10 Out of 12 assert that this show is a “..workplace comedy about the complexity and beauty of collective human endeavor.” Not really. That claim is somewhat akin to saying that “The Wolf of Wall Street” is not really about greed in the finance industry but rather a depiction of empty souls. How you feel about this re-enactment of tech day is likely very much affected by whether you are a theater insider who has actually lived through one, a theater-going junkie fascinated by stagecraft vs. acting, or maybe someone who just loves the spectacle and never really considered how the sausage gets made.
Expect to find much self-referential inside baseball in this script, but also a well-penned love letter from those who know theater best.
Then again, we are in Chicago, and not NY or LA. Chicago audiences have the advantage of living in a small enough city where many of us from outside the theater world know theater insiders as real people. We meet them at the dog park, we live nearby, hire them and make flex schedules so tech days are possible. We do know when our waitress is an actress and make note of her face in case we lose her to Hollywood and she gets famous. We’ve been to one or another production because our neighbor was in it or part of it. If you’re old enough you’ll get the script revision references to Café Voltaire, Chicago theater’s golden age in the 90s, and other not-so-great times before many of our actors found sustenance from shows like Chicago PD and Chicago Fire.
It’s difficult to imagine where playwright Anne Washburn can find a better audience for her script. Chicagoans— we know how to love theater, and this is our show.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves
An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.
Thru April 23, 2017
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM
Sunday at 2:00 PM
No performance March 16.
1229 West Belmont