PROXY, a rock opera presented by Underscore Theatre Company, tells the story of a young woman overcoming trauma by confronting her abuser
In this writer’s view, few productions – musicals or otherwise— have as strong an opening as PROXY. We meet our magnetic main character Vanessa (Carisa Gonzalez) as she belts out the opening song Write Myself Out sandwiched by dialog that quickly defines her quirky angry person. Comic touches in the repartee and of a hand coming out of a window with alcohol bottles-- reminding a New Yorker of a certain age of the Horn & Hardart Automat-- tickle. In this writer’s opinion, you do not have to be an aficionado of punk rock to latch on to this engaging opening song that is laced with rhythmic stop-start interest. This song is also a great showcase of Gonzalez’ ample vocal power. We quickly get very high expectations—perhaps too high—for the story that unfolds.
We learn quickly that Vanessa is a star reporter for an online publication who wears her bad attitude as a badge of honor. Later, when we meet her mother (Jenny Rudnick) we really get how Nessa, as she is nicknamed, somehow missed out when they apportioned the Minnesota Nice that should be her geographical birthright. Maybe she once was nicer, but then something happened. That incident is the motor of this story. Her close friend had attacked her in a psychotic rage. Nessa was left scarred, and avoiding home in order to cut off all memories of what had gone down.
Donning disguise with the help of her loving stoner brother (Kyle Kite), and initially unbeknownst to her boss and one-time lover (Michael Mejia), Nessa goes to meet her attacker face to face. This is schizophrenic Ronnie (Tessa Dettman) who has been institutionalized since she stabbed Vanessa in a swirl of psychotic confusion she has only barely tamed. Like Gonzalez, Dettman brings a strong voice to her part, and an ability to make her quirky character real, but in this writer’s opinion she is given less with which to work.
We Have Seen These Underscore Theatre Performers On Other Stages
Having seen some of these cast members truly shine in other Chicago productions, it was hard for this writer to not feel the disappointment of opportunity lost. For anyone well past their teens, you too might find the mindset of the playwright evinced by this script to be puerile in an off-putting way-- heavy on songs about grabbing booze or joints in lieu of defining characters or plot nuance.
The packaging of this story of rapprochement between victim and victimizer might be more compelling to those who favor punk music above all other musical genres. It will also help if you are a twenty-something perhaps, or for other reasons won’t feel fidgety at the dialogue’s lack of depth. Even though it is about trauma, there seems to be little need to give a trigger alert. This production never crosses the bar into feeling real, at least for this writer.
Book by Austin Regan
Music and Lyrics by Alexander Sage Oyen
Lyrics and additional Book by Rachel Franco
Directed by Stephanie Rohr
Tessa Dettman, Carisa Gonzalez, Kyle Kite, Michael Mejia and Jenny Rudnick. Swings: Matt Tatone and Sinclair Willman
Jeremy Hollis (scenic design), Christina Leinicke (costume design), Benjamin Carne (lighting design), Tim McNulty (sound design), Adrian Hadlock (props design), Nicholas Reinhart (production manager), Josh Prisching (technical director), Liz Gomez (master electrician), Karla Meyer (sound operator) and Leah Geis (stage manager)
Through November 24, 2019
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 4 pm
Mondays at 7:30 pm
4609 N. Clark St.
About the Author:
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.