Broken Nose Theatre presents LABYRINTH Review: Unsettling Political Drama

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“At a time when the man in the Oval Office categorically refers to this same region as one steeped in ‘drugs and crime,’ all while attempting to build a literal wall along our shared border, it’s never been more important to acknowledge our culpability in crippling the economies of our neighbors who turned to us at a time of need and instead became unwilling gears in our own financial machine.”

The above is an excerpt from Spenser Davis’ Director’s Note in the program. It is often easy to overlook the materials in the program, but this writer urges you to take some time to read both the Director’s Note and dramaturgical material for this particular piece.

Labyrinth happens to be an appropriate title for this play about a young banker who becomes lost in the seduction of money and power – so lost that he barely notices how far he has fallen, until it is too late. The ensemble invites the audience to discover, alongside this character, as he learns his lesson.  However, if you are not careful, you may just find that you become lost in the chaos yourself.

While the story takes place over thirty years ago, the events are every bit as relevant today, as the Director’s note remarks. Remain open and alert, because you too may find that this political play is thrilling, but in no way easy to swallow.

Broken Nose Theatre presents U.S. Premiere of Labyrinth

 Written by Beth Steel, Labyrinth takes us back to 1978 New York City, when John Anderson (William Anthony Sebastian Rose II) lands his dream job as a Wall Street Banker. He begins his time under the mentorship of Charlie (David Weiss), who introduces Anderson to the luxurious world of money, alcohol, and work trips to Latin America. The only goal is to charm their way to selling loans to an area eager to expand and develop.

However, all good things must eventually come to an end, and Anderson soon learns that irresponsible money lending will always backfire. As John witnesses entire countries come to the brink of national bankruptcy, he and his colleagues must broach the very real consequences of their actions, and the backlash that will follow.This is a fast-paced dark drama with a biting wit.  The story has constant twists and turns throughout, and until the final light goes out for curtain call.

Broken Nose Theatre LABYRINTH
(left to right) William Anthony Sebastian Rose II and Darren Jones

Embracing the World’s Allure

 Davis stages the play in a theatre in the round setting, with very little space between the audience and the action unfolding before us. We experience the story alongside John – which in the beginning, can be quite exciting and fun.

Broken Nose Theatre LABYRINTH
(center) William Anthony Sebastian Rose II and the cast of Broken Nose Theatre’s U.S. premiere of Labyrinth. Austin D. Oie

When Charlie takes John on his first trip to Brazil, Lighting Designer Seth Torres fills the stage with bright, flashing lights of red, blue, and green. Ensemble members enter from all sides to dance with John, and push him in various directions. Anywhere you look in the space, you can see lights flashing, and a new actor dancing or moving about. A larger-than-life party fills the room, and our close proximity to the stage thrusts us right into the middle of the action. As John is increasingly enamored with his new life, we feel that excitement right alongside him. However, the short distance to the thrill, also means we later are in a closer proximity to the darker elements of the story  that creep in.

Unnerving Reality

 As John realizes his company’s role in manipulating loans out of countries that cannot afford them, his hallucinations and dreams begin to spike.   It becomes difficult to determine what is real, and what only exists in his mind.

His father, Frank (Darren Jones), had been arrested many years prior for fraud. As much as John tries to separate himself from his father’s shadow through success, he finds that Frank’s presence only seems to increase the deeper he falls into his guilt. In one such moment, John enters his office to find Frank waiting for him. As the two argue over John’s motives and role in the company’s corruption, we see Charlie and two other colleagues run into his office. While John can see Frank, the others cannot.  We, the audience, get to see the lines between reality and illusion starting to blur. We watch the play through John’s eyes, and as exhilarating as it might be to share in his triumphs, it becomes deeply unsettling at how impossible it is to look away from his pain.

Superbly directed, in this writer’s view, to walk the line between jarring and thrilling, Labyrinth is a frightening political drama of a historical moment that heavily connects to the present

Broken Nose Theatre LABYRINTH
(left to right) William Anthony Sebastian Rose II and David Weiss
Broken Nose Theatre LABYRINTH
(front to back) William Anthony Sebastian Rose II, Rob Koon and Julia Skeggs

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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.

Watch this video showing the TOP PICK PLAYS of 2019

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Title: LABYRINTH
Playwright: Beth Steel
Director: Spenser Davis

Cast:

Benjamin Brownson (Philip), Ambrose Cappucio (Ensemble), Elise Marie Davis (Grace), Rebecca Flores (Ensemble), Darren Jones (Frank), Rob Koon* (Howard), David Lovejoy (Ensemble), William Anthony Sebastian Rose II (John), Jackie Seijo (Ensemble), Julia Skeggs (Ensemble), Adam Soule (Rick) and David Weiss (Charlie).

 

Creative team:

Therese Ritchie (scenic design), Rachel Sypniewski (costume design), David Goodman-Edberg (lighting design), Tony Ingram (sound design), Devon Green (props designer), Zack Meyer (violence design), David Weiss (dramaturg), Ben F. Locke (assistant director), Julia Skeggs (casting director), Evan Sposato (technical director), Liz Gomez (master electrician), Rose Hamill (stage manager) and Gabby Owens (assistant stage manager).

When

Running through February 29, 2020

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 3 pm

Where

The Den Theatre (2A)
1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago

Tickets:

$1+

For full-priced tickets and ticket availability information visit the Broken Nose Theatre website.

Check for Half-Price Deals from Hot Tix:

Photos: Austin D. Oie.

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago

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.

Click here to read more Picture this Post stories by Lauren Katz.

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