A modern woman sits atop a raised, stair platform, meeting our eyes as we take our seats (Set Design: Jacqueline Frole). A man clad in an ornate, English inspired throwback outfit walks onstage, appears disenchanted with us, and exits. As the lights begin to dim, it’s clear this production will break the fourth wall. What is yet to be seen, however, is how the production also builds windows and mirrors into the fourth wall and ultimately straddles the two worlds of reality and theater.
“Time stops when you come into this room.”
Julia Lederer’s whirlwind of a play juxtaposes four stories cemented together like a mosaic. Each piece is fraught with how lives so easily become entangled with the dichotomy of reality and fantasy, and especially through the passage of time and the lens of technology. With time as an ever-present theme in the play, we examine moments in which the ephemeral present feels never-ending or ever-fleeting – paralleled with theater as an art form itself. Drenched in humor, this one-hour bundle of vitality and layered complexity is presented in what feels like a scripted long-form improvisation. Theater insiders will recognize this improv format as one called The Harold. This is featured by the varying storylines interspersed with game-like dance breaks, and devised movement pieces, featuring all or most of the cast.
Trap Door Theatre Assembles Comedy-Savvy Ensemble
Director (and ensemble member) Emily Lotspeich’s take on Lederer’s ambitious play is delightfully replete with intense energy, and varied, amusing character choices, in this writer’s humble view. Arthur (the Dorian Gray-inspired character) played by Kevin Webb appears to channel a Netflix favorite, (Shitt’s Creek character) Moira, infused with Neil Patrick Harris-intensity. Judith (the Spoon), played by Abby Blankenship, enchants us with impeccable comedic timing, while Bud (Arthur’s bro) played by Gavin Rhys, is effortlessly and hilariously charming as a bro with “no laws” (i.e. while drinking White Claw). However, even while some actors in this ensemble were undoubtedly strong, you too might agree that there were moments in which characters were so caught up in their (albeit funny) bits that they lost connection with one another and us. This seemed to give the show an occasional staccato energy, even if it was regained in the end.
If you prefer a play with an easily digestible plot or the biting realism of a playwright like Tennessee Williams, this production may not be for you. However, if you enjoy edgy theater with a comedic twist, or an improv-infused, intelligent script, this may just be right up your alley (pun intended, Trap Door Theatre*). This eccentric, smart play delivered by a talented cast will have you laughing out loud, but even more importantly, will inspire a conversation for the whole ride home. What is reality theatre and what is Reality Theatre?
*To find the “Trap Door” to the Trap Door Theatre, you must first venture down an alley. It’s a fun part of the experience if you ask this writer.
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.
Kevin Webb, Mark Pontarelli, Abby Blankenship, Seth Wilson, Josh Bernaski, Emily Lotspeich, and Natara Easter.
Through March 9, 2020
8 p.m. Sundays and Mondays
Running time: 60 minutes, no intermission
Trap Door Theatre
1655 W Cortland Street
Chicago, IL 60622
About the Author:
Lauren Lynch is a Chicago-based theatremaker by night and education administrator by day. She has undergraduate degrees in Theatre and English from Austin Peay State University and an MFA in Arts Administration from Texas Tech University. When she's not at work or seeing/creating theatre, you can find her enthusiastically playing board games with friends or stealing cuddles from her dog, Harry Pupper.