Stopwatch in hand, the always tentative Lt. Sawyer (Collin Quinn Rice) counts, “One, two, three, four….”
They are marking the time since ever wide-eyed Bianca (Paula Ramirez) has started her sumptuous meal of menu items that could be the showcase of any Gourmet magazine cover. Though Bianca has her permanent gracious smile on, we know the oxygen will only come back into the room—actually, the prison cell—when enough time has lapsed for she and her guard to know that the food wasn’t poisoned.
Were it not for Bianca, and soon her fellow volunteer Corinne (Daniella Pereira), the supreme leaders off stage—whom we never meet, but know all too well—might meet their end by food poisoning that makes kidneys become out- of-body projectiles.
The foe of these leaders, and their would-be poisoners, are the rebels out East, who have had near success in toppling the powers that rule. Rebel leader Elyse (Shariba Rivers) soon enters, to be shackled in this tasting room with the volunteers. Following her, and taunting her, is The General (Eric Slater), who also is keen to look in on and periodically bed Bianca, now carrying his child, whom she affectionately calls “the bump”.
Rivendell Theatre Captures the Zeitgeist of Our Time
Right from the gitgo we certainly know that something gotta give. We also know it is a story of rebellion catching on, as soon as Elyse makes her entry, oozing an inner strength that eludes her foe, The General. How she comes to engage her cellmates in a run for the barricades, to save what’s left of humanity, is the plot driver. It’s a ride that anyone concerned about where we are headed today will likely admire. For this writer, the play is akin to a moving update on ee cumming’s poem, I Sing of Olaf. Meghan Brown’s script keeps us riveted to see how it all goes down. You will find NO SPOILERS HERE, except to hint that perhaps Lev Parnus’ clarification that Trump’s world is more cult than mafia, qualifies him to be an advance man for this show.
Brown’s script might fall flat if it weren’t for the performances of this pro cast. Slater has the task—and aces it, in this writer’s view—of making an almost cartoonish character come to life with nuance. Rivers electrifies, even silently, as she shifts her focus inwards or out. Rice’s Lt Sawyer is a compellingly cringe-worthy weak everyperson. Pereira’s hysterical cult persona would make her a star in any Moonie gathering. Ramirez peels away the layers in Bianca’s character seamlessly. Brown couldn’t have wished for more than these superb performances—all— and the director’s touches by Devon de Mayo. Of special note to lovers of scenic and projection design is Jeaji Kim’s moving video backdrop telegraphing the characters’ inner lives, and what seems like an uber-subversive touch of decorating the cell with what reminds of antiquity artifacts stolen from museums and world heritage sites.
This show is a top pick for anyone who worries, like playwright Brown, where humanity is headed. Trumpsters should steer clear.
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
Playwright: Meghan Brown
Director: Devon de Mayo
Paula Ramirez (Bianca) and Eric Slater (The General), with Daniella Pereira (Corrine), Collin Quinn Rice (Lt. Sawyer), and Shariba Rivers (Elyse)
Yeaji Kim (projection & scenic design), Heather Sparling (lighting design), Becca Duff (costume design), Hannah Foersch (sound design), Deanna Myers (assistant director), Lucia Lombardi (stage manager) and Sara Beaman (production manager).
Through February 16, 2020
Thursdays - Saturdays at 8PM
Saturdays at 4PM
Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
5779 N. Ridge Avenue