“Don’t you recognize me? I’m your shadow.”
Eric and Steve are sitting in Eric’s living room. They have just spent an unexpected afternoon together and over the course of a wild string of events, truths come to light that neither party expected. Eric asks this question, and Steve is silent – as is the audience. As the silence extends, you might just feel yourself lean in because Greg Keller’s play is a roller coaster ride, and Clark’s production certainly leaves no prisoners.
Jackalope Theatre Company Presents Midwest Premiere of Dutch Masters
Written by Greg Keller, Dutch Masters takes place in New York City in the summer of 1992. Steve (Sam Boeck) and Eric (Patrick Agada) meet by chance on a D train going uptown, and a conversation of small-talk turns into an afternoon that neither quite expected. A train ride turns into smoking pot on a bench, which quickly moves into an afternoon in Eric’s apartment. Truths about the past are revealed, and whether or not they were ready for it, Steve and Eric learn that fate can be funny, and sometimes we are more connected than we even realize.
Keller’s play walks a line between dark comedy and frighteningly serious, creating a tension that radiates throughout the theater. Looking around at this opening night audience, there was a wave of laughter that would quickly turn into cringes, and even transition into dead silence. This wave kept moving from start to finish, creating an exciting yet unsettling feeling of not knowing where the story would go next.
Unsettling and Intimate
Helmed by Director Wardell Julius Clark, the artistic team creates an environment that places the audience right in the action, inviting us to truly absorb the story happening immediately before our eyes.
Scenic Designer Ryan Emens’ set begins fairly minimalistic, with a set of New York subway seats on stage left, and a park bench on stage right. These two elements live right in front of a large fence with graffiti at the bottom. Emens’ set offers just enough to give us a sense of the location, and there is little space between the audience and these pieces. Clark and Emens’ collaboration allows us to focus more on the characters themselves, and the feelings that both of them have surrounding their new “friendship” – inviting us to even feel those emotions alongside them.
Viscerally Honest Production
Clark does not waste time throwing the audience into the action. Early in the play, Eric convinces (or semi-forces) Steve to get off the train with him, and join him for smoking some pot in the park. Agada showcases an impeccable sense of comedic timing through these interactions, creating a sense of uncertainty on whether or not he can be trusted as he urges Steve to join him along for the adventure. While the situation feels questionable, there is also a certain level of light-hearted fun.
Eric leaves Steve to wait for him center stage, and with such a minimalist set, there is place to look other than this lone actor. Clark masterfully crafts this moment as we watch Boeck, isolated, and slowly breaking down, waiting for the unknown. When Eric returns, what will happen next? Where will they go, and did he make the right choice to follow? Boeck fills the moment with a brutal sense of authenticity, inviting us to feel for him and anxiously wait for the same answers.
Brilliant staging in combination with a powerhouse ensemble and a gut-wrenching story make Dutch Masters, in this writer’s opinion, a must-see.
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.
Patrick Agada... Eric
Sam Boeck... Steve
Wardell Julius Clark... director
Ryan Emens... scenic designer
Christine Pascual...costume designer
Simean Carpenter...lighting designer
Nova Casillo...props designer
Steve Labedz...sound designer
Rachel Flesher... intimacy and violence director
Running through April 6, 2019
Thursdays at 8:00pm
Fridays at 8:00pm
Saturdays at 8:00pm
Sundays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm
Running Time: 80 minutes, without intermission
Broadway Armory Park
5917 N Broadway Ave
Chicago, IL 60660
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.