The lights come down at the top of the play, and the usual recorded announcements begin. Turn off your phones, unwrap candy wrappers now, and note the emergency exits on either side of the theater. As we enter the emergency talk of the evening, the recording continues:
“Should something catastrophic occur…”
And then the recording cuts out. We hear static and banging, and the structure before us starts to shake.
The set itself has been covered by a large white sheet hanging from above, and suddenly the sheet whisks off stage left. “Should something catastrophic occur” indeed, because Disney has clearly had an emergency, and the remains of the “It’s a Small World” ride before us by no means came off unscathed.
The New Colony presents Small World
Written by Jillian Leff and Joe Lino, this new play takes place immediately following an attack on Disney World.
Is it the end of the world? Will the Happiest Place on Earth survive?
The three employees stuck inside the Small World attraction certainly do not have answers, but they do know that the situation looks pretty dire for them. The music is stuck on repeat. An old coworker by the name of Ted is dead and floating in the moat, and Kim (Stephanie Shum) is slowly losing her peppy, optimistic outlook with her leg impaled by what was once a smiling animatronic.
Will Kim, Becca (Jackie Seijo) and Donny (Patriac Coakley) escape? Can the three employees survive the collapsing remains of the attraction around them? Will the music ever stop?
Leff and Lino ask these questions and more in their apocalyptic comedy.
Hilarious Dark Comedy
Leff and Lino have created an entire play about three very different employees stuck together in one tight area of the Small World attraction. Scenic Designer Sotirios Livaditis places the entire play on top of a circular raised platform that is surrounded by a moat. While the actors occasionally jump off to try and find a potential escape in a hidden tunnel, the bulk of the action occurs in this confined space, which allows the tension to quickly bubble and overflow.
The contrasts between the three characters only adds to the comedy. Towards the beginning, when the trio is trying to figure out a way to send a note for help, Donny comes across the dead corpse of Ted (a large, floppy dummy) floating in the moat. Donny and Becca struggle to lift the Dummy onto the platform – despite Becca’s difficulty keeping her stomach calm enough to finish the task. Kim is out of commission as a pole is still impaled through her leg, but she certainly adds to the commotion through constant screams and cries over this coworker who she felt so strongly added to the happiness of Disney. The stage picture of watching this absurd struggle unfold is hysterical, and the three actors so quickly bounce off each other with wit that you too might find yourself leaning in to ensure that you catch every moment.
We enjoy a constant wave throughout the play of laughter that at times morphs into groans at the horror. The dialogue is fast-paced and witty. In this writer’s view the Director and cast have the timing down to perfectly highlight the comedy of each situation.
Moments of Sincerity
As time wears on for these three characters trapped together, truths rise to the surface. Kim spends much of the play in constant physical pain, and in one such moment, she asks Becca to tell her a story. After much push back, Becca finally agrees to the task, and tells the tale of Princess Sara – a sweet princess in a castle who has the power to cure sadness. For the first time, we see hints of genuineness poke through her dead pan humor, offering a small window into Becca’s difficult past-- details withheld here to avoid a spoiler. Seijo’s performance goes even further than the script to ensure we connect with the character in a new way.
A brilliant ensemble and artistic team combine over-the-top hilarity, painful truth, and bloody horror into one jam-packed 85-minute theatrical event, making Small World an experience to remember. This writer certainly had no problem joining the uproar of cheers and applause at the end of the performance.
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.
Pat Coakley... Donny
Jackie Seijo... Becca
Stephanie Shum... Kim
Andrew Hobgood - Director
Megan Johns - Assistant Director
Zach Weinberg - Assistant Director
Doran Konja - Script Supervisor
Lila Gilbert - Production Manager
Evan Sposato - Technical Director
Monica M. Brown - Stage Manager
Cedar Larson - Assistant Stage Manager
Sotirios Livaditis - Scenic Designer
Alon Stotter - Lighting Designer
Erik Siegling - Sound Designer
Uriel Gomez - Costume Designer
Jennifer Wernau - Props Designer
Zack Meyer - Violence Designer
Running through May 4, 2019
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3:00pm
Running Time: 85 minutes, without intermission.
The Den Theatre
1331 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
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.