As you walk into the vestibule of Tapestry Fellowship Church to get your program/ticket, you are briefed on the rules of the road for this unique theater immersion experience. Don’t talk to the actors, unless they talk to you. Go anywhere you like , whenever you like. And lastly, if you think you might have missed out on the action, just come back again.
At the front end, the latter might strike you as a marketing come on. By play’s conclusion, you too may be considering if you can juggle your schedule to find an opening in your calendar for a return.
The church has a large lounge at ground level, a chapel above, with an open balcony above it. You reach a small nursery and chaplain’s office off these upper floors, as well as a back exit and stoop. Just as in real life: 1) you can’t be in all places at once; 2) your take on what is going down depends a lot on where you stand or sit; and 3) your experience is greatly affected—if not totally determined- -by those you either choose to be near, or just find yourself next to.
A Touch of Silent Theater in the Dialogue
The church is readying for a funeral. At first, the most voluble participant in this ceremony seems to be the deceased himself. He is the pastor of this church. He stalks the scene with silent exaggerated emotion, displaying the calling card of this unique Chicago theater. Almost like a puck in a pinball machine, he figuratively bumps into someone, triggering an eruption of animated conversation snippets. You come to realize it is actually his memory triggering the thoughts of whom he is talking to. You are coming into the middle of conversations. In this corner of the chapel, and throughout, you wade deeper and deeper into inference territory. A-Z explications are nowhere to be found.
Heated arguments will draw you up and down into one or another room. Infidelities, real or imagined, barge into the mourning ritual. Hushed voices will share truths, or hew to the proprieties of funeral rites. There’s a whodunit in the air. There is the why-why-why of loss, and the meaning of life. There is allusion to the late pastor’s political passions, and how these divided his flock. Per the title, there is much reflection on a life’s end being the stop point for conversations that matter.
For this writer though, it’s the over-the-top antics of the ghost pastor that so delight. (No details on these, in order to steer clear of spoiler terrain.) Audience members of a certain age might similarly be reminded of Topper’s pratfalls we watched on black and white TV. If you get to this performance soon—at least the first time you go—you too might find the ghost themes so Halloween perfect.
Unlike other immersive theater experiences like Windy City Playhouse’s The Recommendation or Southern Gothic, you will not be steered from room to room by anything other than altercations, or obvious gaggles of actors hushing their chats to draw you in. What you think went down, and what it all means, will likely change with each viewing. One imagines that the cast – will also inject this live performance with new life every night, morphing it into a new species by run’s end.
If you too are a fan of theater experimentation, this play is a top pick.
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.
Title: Incomplete Conversations
Written & Directed: Nell Voss
Brendan Balfe (Ken), Mark Bjorkquist (Harry), Paul Brennan (Undertaker/understudy) Robyn Coffin (Ellen), Terilyn Elise Eisenhauer (Erin), Danny Ferenczi (Liam), Lauren Fisher (Jenny), Mikey Gray (Elisa), Gillian Hastings (Alice), Tony Holmes (Jeremy), Victor Holstein (Eddie), Diane Honeyman (Cindy), Zoe Pike (Mary), Zoe Sapienza (Undertaker/understudy), Elliot Taggart (Max), June Thiele (Evie), Dina Marie Walters (Abigail), Allie Wessel (Madeleine)
Curtis M. Jackson (Assistant Director),
Tonika Todorova (Production Manager),
Evan Sierminski (Music Director),
Michael McKeogh (Fight Choreographer),
Tzvetana Dontcheva (Prop Master),
Stage Management by Mary Patchell
Through November 23, 2019
Tapestry Fellowship Church,
3824 W. Irving Park Rd,
About the Author: Amy Munice
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.