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|Redtwist Theatre presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
Drugged, blindfolded, tortured, a victim slips into unconsciousness. No, it’s not a prisoner of war. It’s a twelve year old at a London boarding school. Redtwist Theatre presents the Chicago premiere of That Face. Mia teams up with Izzy to bully a young girl. When the hazing ritual gets brutally out-of-control, the girls are sent home. Mia’s mum is furious, but not about the school suspension. In fact, she doesn’t even remember talking to the school authorities. Martha is mad that Mia has interrupted her special time with Henry. High on pills and booze, Martha is playing her own sadistic games with Henry, her pretend Russian soldier. And most disturbing of all, Henry is her son. That Face shocks with heartless intensity and soulless humor.
Playwright Polly Stenham made her theatrical debut with That Face. To critical acclaim, it opened at London’s Royal Court in 2007. And most mind-blowing of all, Stenham was only 19 years old. The play is “Mommie Dearest” meets “Mean Girls” -the director’s violent cut. Under the influence, chemical or not, people are vicious. The provocative content is unsettling. Stenham keeps it real with natural dialogue and untidy situations. Director Michael Colucci masterfully orchestrates riveting family dysfunction. It’s like watching a family throw gasoline on their burning home while they’re still inside it. The blistering pandemonium is consuming and irreversible.
Redtwist is presenting That Face in repertory with its successfully extended show, Bug (our review). The shows share the same stage space but in opposite time slots. It’s an ambitious decision by Redtwist. And most impressive of all, Jacqueline Grandt is the lead in both. Having now seen both shows, I would describe Grandt with ‘amazing.’ She must be exhausted! In both roles, she plummets herself into a big, black hole of raw emotion. In That Face, Grandt (Martha) is one twisted, despicable mother. Nick Vidal (Henry) and Grandt both give powerful performances. Vidal makes his codependence somehow vulnerably sweet and pathetically wrong at the same time. Vidal’s final scene captivates with escalating derangement. Rae Gray (Mia) plays confused teenager perfectly. Gray has a sullen defiance that annoys and endears. Lindsay Leopold (Izzy) has a jaw-dropping hospital scene. Leopold’s reaction is horrific and surprising. And she’s not even blood-related to Martha’s messed-up family.
That Face is family driven angst in-YOUR-face. School problems may often initiate a teacher wondering ‘what’s going on at home?’ No one would ever conceive of this kind of devastating home life. And most disconcerting of all, That Face came out of the imagination of a 19 year old.
Redtwist Theatre’s That Face continues through August 14th, with performances Fridays and Sundays at 7:30pm and Saturdays at 3pm. Redtwist is located at 1044 W. Bryn Mawr. Tickets are $25-$28, and can be purchased by phone (773-728-7529), by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or online through the Redtwist website. Running Time: Two hours includes an intermission.
All photos by Jan Ellen Graves.
behind the scenes
Michael Colucci (Director); Matt Babbs & Maggie Schlundt (Assistant Directors); Shauna Warren (Stage Manager); Olivia Baker (Asst Stage Manager); Stephen H. Carmody (Set Designer); John Kelly (Lighting Designer); Justin Castellano (Asst. Lighting Designer); Christopher Kriz (Sound Designer); Ricky Lurie (Costume Designer); Jenny Pinson (Prop Designer); Lindsay Bartlett (Dialect Coach); Cassandra Rose (Dramaturg); Mary Beth Liss (Vocal Coach); Jan Ellen Graves (Graphic Design); Charles Bonilla (Box Office Manager); Michael Colucci & Jan Ellen Graves (Producers); Andrew Jessop and Johnny Garcia (Associate Producers)
3 words: A newbie to Redtwist, Tom describes it with “Mum, stop that!”