WildClaw Theatre Presents SECOND SKIN Review – Triptych Tales From The Deep

Wildclaw Theatre SECOND SKIN
(left to right) Paula Ramirez, Stephanie Shum, Hilary Williams

Clutching the shard of broken glass that is your ticket, you walk into the darkened small performance space in the Den Theatre. Doors open just before the curtain. The stage is dimly lit, with a supersized ship window at its center and other parts of the stage of sorts dripping with white cloths perhaps evoking sand. A ledge with bottles that whiskeys and bourbons are poured from is on one side.

It’s easy to channel Ravel’s music of the mysterious sea and swirling waters. It’s easy to feel shipwrecked.

From the shadows Quinn (Stephanie Shum) emerges. She begins to knit us into her story, a web spun of something other than everyday mother-daughter tensions. Her Mom, now dying of ALS, has been downright weird throughout Quinn’s childhood. She never knew when another spell would hit her mother— in settings as mundane as the grocery store—where all normalcy was gone in an instant as her mother scurried them back to a darkened house and sat paralyzed, sometimes for days.

This is a long monologue—but we are latched—maybe only breaking from Quinn’s spell long enough to make a mental note at how mesmerizing Shum’s performance is.

Wildclaw Theatre SECOND SKIN
Paula Ramirez as Sigrid
Wildclaw Theatre SECOND SKIN
Hilary Williams as Aislinn
Wildclaw Theatre SECOND SKIN

The mother we heard so much about, Sigrid (Paula Ramirez) then comes to tell her side of the tale, followed by the selkie (a mythical creature that resembles a seal in the water but assumes human form on land, played by Hilary Williams) who has been stalking and haunting Sigrid before Quinn was even born. She emerges from the other side of the center stage nautical round window, only to be swallowed by the waves that are her dress and set both (Scenic Designer Lizzie Bracken and Costume Designer Anna Wooden).

The three monologues— in sequence, spinning and unspinning the tale— are conveyed with great skill by these three actresses.  The brilliance of Kristin Idszak’s script, in this writer’s view, is in weaving the vernacular of everyday with the spookiness of the haunted.  It is a script that sings such that each of these three actresses can deliver their lines like spoken arias. We are riveted.

WildClaw Theatre Lays Claim to Horror Tales

WildClaw Theatre, which stakes a claim to being the only Chicago theater totally dedicated to bringing horror to the stage, has given us a story less spooky than of psychologically profiling and unveiling the spooked. Lovers of fairy tales will likely resonate with this play, and anyone who is drawn to storytelling as entertainment.

Those looking for blood and gore, flesh-eating zombies and more testosterone-soaked horror may be let down. This production is proudly presented as all-women all the way—playwright, cast, production team, all. While this reviewer can’t quite connect with claims that this is a unique femme powered story and production--- because mom-daughter tensions are ubiquitous plot lines, even in the lightest musical fare, for example—it doesn’t diminish that this is a recommended play, and especially for those who love myths and storytelling and standout performances by highly talented actors.


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.

Written by Kristin Idaszak

Directed by Jess Hutchinson

Starring (in alphabetical order):

Paula Ramirez (Sigrid), Stephanie Shum (Quinn), Hilary Williams (Aislinn)

PRODUCTION TEAM: Sound Design by Sarah Espinoza*; Costumes by Anna Wooden; Set Design by Lizzie Bracken; Dramaturgy by Hannah Greenspan; Make-up/Hair Design by Krista D’Agostino*; Kaili Story is our Lighting Designer. Lila Gilbert as Production Manager.


Thru October 13

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays 7:30PM
Sundays 3:00 pm


The Den Theatre
1333 N Milwaukee Ave


$15+ .

For tickets and more information visit the WildClaw Theatre website.

Photos: Joe Mazza Brave Lux Photography


Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago

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