Prepare to Get Reeled In and Prepare to Feel Sick Upon Arrival
Imagine that you haven’t been able to eat for two days. You are in a foreign land, Laos to be precise. After a long boat trip you arrive at an island with Ankor Wat type ruins. Suddenly the aroma of chicken soup coming from a large pot stirred by a warm-smiling woman beckons you to delay the tour to get some sustenance. How delicious it is, until you realize you are chomping down on rat soup, not chicken.
That had happened a few decades ago to this sometimes travel writer, no bug-eating Anthony Bourdain she. A paralyzing nausea sets in, with stomach wanting to eject its contents, but having been shorted for a few days finds itself unable, instead turning all to concrete.
THAT is exactly how Evening at the Talk House goes down. You settle into your seat in that ever improbable A Red Orchid Theatre performance space when actor Lance Baker, playing Robert, emerges from nowhere, reeling you in with his soothing voice that would find a happy home on a classical music station.
He is recounting how he, a one-time playwright and now, we come to infer, a rich and famous TV writer, has come to a reunion of the cast for one of his plays. It’s a cozy dining room with “tasty snacks” that the ever lovable proprietress Nellie, played by Natalie West whom many will still be seeing as the Crystal of the Roseanne TV show. The other guests stroll in and to the back room—Annette played by Kirsten Fitzgerald (the one-time costume manager now a seamstress), Tom played by Miguel Nunez (the star of both the TV show that Robert writes today and that play from years ago), Ted played by Doug Vickers (the music guy from the play, now writing jingles), Bill played by Noah Simon who later becomes recognizable as the playwright’s persona, and Jane played by Sadieh Rifai (who helps Nellie out and we later learn was once Robert’s sexual partner ). But most of al it is the arrival of Dick played by H.B. Ward, a guy Robert could never really brook and who now has bloody scars marring his face, that sends the first flare signal of just where time has taken them all. Dick explains that some friends did this to him and said it was just a friendly warning. Huh?
A Red Orchid Theatre Gives Us Vintage Wallace Shawn
Even though the play has just begun, to tell much more is an inherent spoiler. For those who have looked for playwright Wallace Shawn’s cameos in Woody Allen movies, KNOW you will feel his ever-quirky voice driving the tale. The plot similarly unravels in the style of his Dinner with André, except here it is an entire group of them. A brutality peeks out from beneath the cocktail party small talk. Shawn has reeled us into a place where the only view seems to be full frontal cruelty.
Expect the superb acting for which both A Red Orchid Theater and Director Shade Murray’s touch are known.
If you like theater that jolts and disturbs, Evening at the Talk House is a top pick choice. Considering this play along with other recent openings—Foxfinder, The Crucible and The Invisible Hand —you begin to hear Marvin Gaye’s refrain as an earworm—What’s Going On?
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.
Now through November 19
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays 8:00 PM
Saturdays and Sundays 3:00 PM
A Red Orchid Theatre
1531 North Wells