As the play opens we’re in the dark…
We are watching the owner of all (Peter Moore as Zeppo) turning round and round in a structure suggestive of car, as he drones a detailed account of the Raiders of the Lost Ark plot line to a young woman (Amber Sollis as Ollie) who has come to him for help finding her missing sister. For the more literal minds in the crowd who are intrigued by machines, the way in which their vehicle turns as they talk is a mystery so intriguing that it detours attention from the octopus head in the back seat whom Zeppo keeps instructing Amber to give another oversized cube.
Octopus Head? Cube?
Well, in retrospect and after a bit of time Googling, the Dungeons and Dragons familiar will know that’s a die and not a cube, and that the Octopus Head is a character from one of the later iterations of this fantasy game. For the rest of us, we may keep replaying that first scene as perhaps a metaphor of the “..cycles of s**t”…” that we are told describes the dark and dystopian terrain of Pomona.
To say that we are “told” that is a bit of a stretch actually. Playwright Alistair McDowall’s script is purposely achronistic—with the clarity of affect of a nitemare and the same kind of logic of fast but incoherent action of just-before-waking dreams. Ends of story fragments are told before the beginnings, or somewhere in middles. Women are working as sex slaves, murders are going down, patients are in straightjackets or maybe dialysis tubes, and Ollie’s sister is apparently not the only one who has gone missing, or maybe her sister was imaginary anyway---and…
Reach, reach, reach though you might, this is not a story that has a strong narrative thread to hold on to as it lurches forward, backwards and sideways.
Standout Acting You Expect at Steep Theatre
It’s a testimony to both Director Robin Witt and the talented cast that at least this Dungeons and Dragons illiterate writer remained transfixed the whole time trying (though not succeeding) to crack the riddle of this script. Of particular note--Brandon Rivera as Charlie, a character with many incarnations that manifest at different levels of fantasy, is riveting, as is his tortured sidekick Moe, played by Nate Faust, who gives loud voice to the darkness of the zeitgeist in this story. We vicariously quake when Ashlyn Lozano as Fay trembles hooded before her would be executioners. In an instant we know the anomia of life on the edges of being on the spectrum when Phoebe Moore as Keaton arrives to throw the dice.
The program notes suggest a theme by introducing us to the title place Pomona as one-time playground for vacationers, now turned to industrial wasteland. As the show capper, the Fred Drumpf-like character of Zeppo crows to young Charlie how he wants to cover it all with his own S**t—perhaps imagining the skyscrapers below with his name emblazoned on their sides. But what it all means remained --at least for this writer-- widely open to interpretation, or rather fantasy.
If not an enthusiastic fan of fantasy role playing games, you might want to take a pass on this one. Playwright Alistair McDowall doesn’t seem to be very keen to communicate with us.
It’s likely that Dungeons and Dragons aficionados will feel like this play is equivalent of dying and going to heaven—or the next level of fantasy, if that feels better. If you are a fantasy game fan this is your show.
Cautionary Note: There is ample use of theatrical fog in this production, which may be an irritant to those who suffer from sinus issues or find such to be a migraine trigger.
Playwright: Alistair McDowall
Director: Robin Witt
Cast: Ashlyn Lozano, Phoebe Moore, Jamila Tyler, Nate Faust, Peter Moore, Brandon Rivera , and Amber Sallis.
Thru August 24, 2019
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8pm
Sunday matinees at 3pm on July 28, August 4, 11, and 18
1115 West Berwyn Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
Stage Manager – Lauren Lassus*
Set Designer – Joe Schermoly
Lighting Designer – Brandon Wardell**
Sound Designer – Thomas Dixon*
Costume Designer – Aly Amidei
Props Designer – Jenny Pinson
Fight Choreographer – Christina Gorman
Dialect Coach – Adam Goldstein
Assistant Director – Cody Spellman
Production Manager – Catherine Allen**
*Denotes Steep Company Member
**Denotes Steep Artistic Associate