As you walk into the Trap Door Theatre in between shows for Naked, their mainstage production, you’ll see an entirely different show brewing. There’s a simple control board on the back wall, with a couple of lights, a telephone, and a single button. The wiring coming out of the board trails down to the floor and snakes up the play’s titular electric chair, set up to fire lethal bolts into whoever is wearing the headpiece (in the legally and morally right way of course). Strapped into the chair by leather cuffs and two seatbelt straps is a man, his face covered by a black sack. The sack is porous enough however to allow the patrons watching the pre-show to see the man breathing calmly, or perhaps trying to breathe calmly to create a lighter atmosphere from his dire situation. His hands are clenched around the wooden arms of the chair, and from this one can tell that the body might know what’s going to happen better than the mind ever could.
Trap Door Theatre’s “Trap-Open” Puts Up World Premiere
There is No Power For the Electric Chair has exactly the premise one would expect: a state execution where the power goes out. As the lights go up after a crash and a boom, the death row inmate finds out from his designated, government-paid button-pusher that there has been a catastrophic earthquake, and through the single window in the room, he can’t tell if everyone outside is alive or dead. What follows is a morality discussion between two ideologues, not only defending their beliefs, but questioning what their philosophies mean in this potentially post-apocalyptic scenario. In one corner there’s Leonard, a dutiful officer played by Christopher Donaldson, who believes that doing what’s right and what’s expected of you is an absolute requirement, hence his insistence on staying in the room and awaiting further instructions from his superiors. In the other corner, the nameless convict, played throughout the show in the chair by Logan Hulick. An avid reader, his stance is instead that as the outside world deteriorates, so does the ethical code that we define our society by. As the play reaches its climax, the convict reveals secrets about Leonard’s life through mocking and insulting rants, until Leonard is driven to fire his pistol after the lights go out, only to die off the ricochet. The 50 minute piece is analogous to conversations had by Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling, or even Batman and the Joker.
A Curious Thought Piece
In this viewer’s opinion, the play had some issues with momentum. In a play such as this, where the actors are positioned in the same room, and one strapped to a chair, any drops in energy were palpable, which did happen from time to time. Additionally, the script by Alexandar Sekulov, to this playwright, raised interesting questions, but did so in repetition, to the point that the dialogue became tired and in desperate need of some sort of escalation. Lastly, the acting from both performers lacked a sense of stakes, at least to this reviewer. Despite all of this, it is extremely refreshing to not only see new work, but the world premiere of a work written by a Bulgarian poet, which is a brave feat in and of itself.
Trap Door Theatre
1655 West Cortland Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
October 22nd - November 5th
Sundays and Mondays @ 8 pm