X - A haunting, stirring, Highly Recommended Drama/Sci-Fi/Thriller stage play at Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater.
Have you ever played the Milton Bradley tabletop game Guess Who? Has it ever occurred to you that one is considerably more likely to lose if the identity card they draw at the beginning of a given round is female? It would seem that this has occurred to the folks behind X and this example is just one of many ideas expressed through just one of many microscopic details in just one of many deceptively complex scenes.
Sideshow Theatre Company offers up Cinema on Stage
Sound, lighting, projection and set design conspire to create an experience this reviewer can only describe as remarkably cinematic. When the show is about to start, the lights go down, the darkness snuffs out audience murmurs -- and then richly textured tones pulse beneath pre-show announcements delivered as if they were a monologue. The lights then come up, the heavy tones quiet to a constant, low drone and the audience is transported to outer space.
Environment as Character.
Colorful light tears through the razor-strait grooves of pristine, white walls. One character sips from a mug that bears the same insignia as his tee-shirt while another paces the floor eating from a box of Crispy Wows. Suffice it to say, though the vibe is sparse and contemplative, X is glutted with fine details.
“I’m not prejudiced, I’m an Astronaut!”
Alistair McDowall’s script offers small hints as to the condition of this future world by way of conflict-rich ruminating. Revelations about deep character, theme and plot seep out as the crew debates and bickers. The ensemble paints vivid emotional landscapes, displaying a kind of collective vulnerability beneath the ever-present specter of total isolation. You too may come hope that the crew can keep it together -- that someone might come for them, which - in turn - might enhance your terror when the unpleasant things happen.
“I can remember when meat came from animals.”
The material also appears to be infused with more than a few ideas about the nature of relationships between oppressors and the oppressed. The aforementioned pre-show announcements - for instance - included a remembrance of the stolen lands upon which the theatre and - by extension - the city of Chicago stands, and individual shoutouts to some of the native nations that once lived and thrived here, perhaps to set that certain thematic tone.
X Gon’ Give it to Ya
How often do stories that seek to unsettle and terrify also reach for your heart strings? It is this reviewer’s experience that such a maneuver is rarely attempted and X’s crackerjack ensemble sticks the landing with aplomb.
Those who find blood and gore to be off-putting may wish to proceed with caution but this show is Highly Recommended for fans of science fiction and - in particular - drama with as much on its mind as it has in its heart.
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.
Natalie Ortega (Voice)
Krystal Ortiz (Mattie)
Sarah Price (Gilda)
Gage Wallace (Clark)
H.B. Ward (Ray)
Nate Whelden (Cole)
Alistair McDowall (Playwright)
Jonathan L. Green (Director/Artistic Director)
Yu Shibagaki (Scenic Design)
Noël Huntzinger (Costume Design)
Jordan Kardasz (Lighting Design)
Michael Huey (Sound Design)
Emily Boyd (Properties Design)
Paul Deziel (Projections Design)
Justin J. Sacramone (Dramaturg)
Nina O'Keefe (Assistant Director)
Catherine Allen (Production Manager)
Will Hughes (Technical Director)
Emily Ioppolo (Stage Manager)
Thru October 27, 2019
Thursday - Saturday 8pm
Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater
2433 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
About the Author:
Spence Warren is a Filmmaker, a Film Worker, A Musician, A Puppet Maker and - apparently - an occasional reviewer. He hopes to offer people - particularly those who love story in all its forms - valuable insight and perspective.