Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Review Posted: Lower Debt

My review of LiveWire's Lower Debt is up on Centerstage. Sadly the show doesn't have much to recommend it, but I'm impressed that this is the first show I've seen this year in Chicago that wasn't worth a visit. Ah well. Anyhow, here's the text:

To give credit where it's due, Joshua Aaron Weinstein's new play "Lower Debt" is not a solemn tract about the people left behind by capitalism and forced to live in tent cities. Unfortunately it's hard to tell just what it is: poetic monologues sit next to meandering scenes, interrupted by black-and-white filmed sections, while no real plot shows up until about 20 minutes from the end. It's perplexing, to say the least, but not in a particularly interesting way. Despite some worthwhile performances, a strong staging and a few involving moments, it's mostly just dull.

After a pair of monologues with no apparent relation to the rest of the play, Claude (Malcolm Callan), his lover Val (Melissa diLeonardo) and her younger cousin (or sister - it isn't clear) Wendell (Annie Rix) discover an empty lot and claim it, charging rent for its use as a tent city. Meanwhile, CW (Brian P. Cicirello), an advertising copywriter, loses his job and is pulled into poverty by a combination of bad decisions and worse fortune. CW's scenes are shown as black-and-white movies until he arrives at the tent city — an interesting idea hampered by sound that makes it hard to understand most of the dialogue. For most of the show, though, we watch the various residents of the tent city go about their lives. There is vague rumbling about the characters' pasts and possible connections among them, but by the time revelations arrive they're too late — and too confusing — to make it worth the trouble.

There's good work here; Rebekah Scallet's staging is clear and always interesting to watch, Cicirello and Earliana McLaurin give engaging performances, and Anders Jacobson and Judy Radovsky's set is very evocative. But at this stage the script is still a bewildering muddle, and it's hard to care.

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