A girl, in a state of paranoia and panic, descends into an ethereal vision. The door into the apartment glows bright blue in through the darkness, as a flashlight beam streaks across the stage through a light aura of dust. Something makes a loud bang, then a clang, as ominous bass drones grow in intensity. The girl then struggles over the sink in the counter as she rips a dead and ragged chicken carcass from the drain, to her childlike terror. Getting a grip on herself, she uses every ounce of wit in her body to take the body to the door and throw it into the hall. Then, the panic subsides, the lights return to normal, and the audience is left just as jarred as the girl.
A Latinx Legend
Isaac Gomez’s script is one audiences might find similar to Paranormal Activity or Sinister. The setup between Karen Rodriguez and Rashaad Hall’s characters Marisa and Lev is typical of the genre: a couple having lingering and foreboding relationship issues moves into a new home. The exposition isn’t new or groundbreaking (this humble audience member found the script repetitive and dubious at times), but it gets the job done well enough to have the audience in a state of absolute tension for the majority of the production’s second half. Themes of gentrification, interracial relationships, and the negotiations of privacy are present as well for those who are looking for some political thought in their thrills, though they’re not explored too significantly.
Along the way, hints are dropped that Marisa’s grandmother has a bruja vibe, along with the fact that the previous tenants left abruptly. Let’s just say that things escalate from there. The Latinx take on the source of the horror was refreshing, more than enough to give any scare-aficionado something new to look forward to being terrified of.
Haven Theatre Delights With Disturbing Tech
The work this show’s production team has done is wonderfully chilling. Cardi B with Latin samplings starts the play with a boom, and the subtle but ominous scoring keeps your arm hairs standing. There are many instances in the show that surprise and startle, but the truest and most lasting effect of the show’s tech comes in the more creeping moments. In one part of a scene, the lights go completely dark, and the actors have to find a flashlight for anyone to see anything. The flashlight they find has a thin but strong beam, which provides so many creative and gorgeous stage pictures. Light from the fridge, microwave, and even Amazon Alexa turn this average apartment into a foggy fluorescent fever dream. On another note, this may be one of the only plays you see that leaves you questioning why exactly your Alexa isn’t acting the way you want it to.
Rodriguez Brings Bubbly Bipolarism
Karen Rodriguez’s Marisa is the cherry on top of the production. Those looking for actors that portray a real relationship can find it in The Displaced, and Rashaad Hall’s more grounded approach is complemented by Rodriguez’s adorable teases and tickles. Anyone who’s ever goo-goo-gah-gahed with their significant other will appreciate Rodriguez’s performance all the more. However, the transformation that Marisa goes through toward the end of the show is something different entirely. Bubbly becomes a calculated belligerent, and the audience is left wondering and worrying where Marisa has gone.
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.
Thru July 1st
Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm
The Den Theatre
1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Erik S. Barry
Sarah D. Espinoza
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago