The moment you enter the gallery in Artspace 8, the setting of this immersive production, you’re greeted by multiple enthusiastic members of Cornerstone, a self-help seminar meets not-so-subtle cult, and given a name-tag along with your program. Before even sitting down, you’re encouraged to take a sip of the daily “Flavorade”, and fill out some paperwork that asked you to “draw your potential” on the back. What followed was an experience unlike anything this theatre-goer has seen before.
Nothing to Hide, and So Much to See
This show is a choose-your-own adventure, opening up the confinement that a normal play provides by allowing you to get up from your seat and follow characters as they run into the lobby sobbing. Brothers arguing over their mommy-issues, an exuberant new-convert trying to get a grip on himself, and a reporter interviewing a Cornerstone higher-up with a tape recorder all happened outside of the central playing space. All one had to do was stand up, grab another sip of Flavorade, and listen to the gossip. You may be handed a Cornerstone manual, only to have it taken from you with a sneaky sleight-of-hand. Nothing was out of the realm of possibility.
Okay...Maybe a Little to Hide
Though this seminar starts innocently and comically enough, the story quickly takes a turn for the worst. Depending on your level of investigation and participation in the play’s interactive nature, you uncover worse and worse truths about Cornerstone’s activities. As these secrets start to unravel, so do the other attendees. An activist visitor rolls around in ecstasy while her girlfriend tries to force a foam pad into the mouth of a woman that’s trying to have children. The Consideration Managers (as the Cornerstone higher-ups are so-called) are snapping and barking buzzwords and making synchronized gestures as Nestor, another new convert, screams out in horror that Cornerstone “does not condone violence”. Pandemonium is just around the corner in this show, and you’re right in the thick of it.
Nothing Without A Company Has Acting Chops
Before the show began, this viewer made a friend in Nestor (Kyle Mundil), a lively and enthusiastic member who changed his name so that it was an anagram of Cornerstone. Mundil’s performance immediately set the tone for this production, and his journey from naive do-gooder to a man without a purpose, or a sense of what is real, makes this a production you have to see. Several actors were difficult to distinguish from regular audience members, heightening the immersion even more. If you’re looking for a production featuring a strong and committed ensemble cast, Cornerstone is the show to 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.
Thru April 29th
Thursday - Saturday at 7pm
Sundays at 6pm
900 N Michigan Avenue, 3rd Level
Chicago, IL 60611
KENYA ANN HALL
SAMANTHA MICHELLE NAVA
DEREK RIENZI VAN TASSEL
DR. PHRANQUE WRIGHT
For tickets and information visit the Nothing Without a Company website.
Matthew Gregory Hollis
ANNA ROSE II-EPSTEIN
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago