Strawdog Theatre Seems To Have Lifted Hellcab Set
Chicago theater regulars will likely walk into the theater space and immediately think “HELLCAB”—that holiday season perennial. Here too the set is a shuttle van surrounded by snow. It’s on a turnstile that the actors at different times rotate to signal a shift in focus or a literal turn in the road. Other times our focus is shifted by flashing lights that simulate the night highway to the bleary-eyed taxi driver. (Set design: Jefffrey Kmiec, Lighting Design: John Kelly).
That bleary-eyed driver is Hassan, a Somali-American from Minneapolis who is struggling to make ends meet. Against type—as he doesn’t particularly look Somali—actor Terence Sims brings this role to life with magnetic realism. We latch to his eyes even in the first scene, and note how they calibrate and telegraph his internal emotions at every turn.
Emotional turns are not in short supply. Going against his better thoughts of sticking to the rules, Hassan takes a bribe from a seemingly innocuous Lloyd (Sam Hubbard), who asks him to cross state lines to get him to O’Hare so he can catch a new flight to see his dying mother.
As it turns out, Lloyd is anything but innocuous.
Alas, this is one of those plays that detailing any more would be a horrible spoiler.
And this is not a play anyone would want to spoil for you. Intense 90 minutes with no intermission, it is like a guided tour of how limbic systems struggle to internalize geo-politics on a global scale--- or tune it out for safety and sanity’s sake.
Both Hubbard and Sims deliver superb performances. They ARE these two men. The minimal set keeps our focus on their acting talent. For much of the play, we focus only on their shifting facial expressions.
Actress Eleni Pappageorge is called upon to play four minor roles that are more caricature than in-depth. Director Cody Estle keeps out of the way of the two leads and lets their talent and this magnificent script by playwright Bennett Fisher carry the day.
DAMASCUS is especially recommended for those who love thrillers or a chance to see raw acting brilliance without many distractions.
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.
Cast: Sam Hubbard, “Lloyd,” Terence Sims, “Hassan;” and Eleni Pappageorge, “Diaz/ Whitacker/ Maynard/ Conklin".
Production Team: John Kelly, lighting designer, with guest artists Bennett Fisher, playwright; Cody Estle, director; Eli Newell, assistant director; Olivia Wallace, stage manager; Lauren Brady, assistant stage manager; R&D Choreography (Rick Gilbert and Victor Bayona), violence design; Regina Fields, dramaturg; Jeff Kmiec, set designer;; Izumi Inaba, costume designer; Sarah Espinoza, sound designer; Lacie Hexon, props designer; Becca Venable, technical director and Andy Kloubec, master electrician.