In a disaster’s aftermath, uncovering the sludge left behind
|Chicago Dramatists presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
With a 20th floor view of Lake Shore Drive, my most avid memory of the 2011 Blizzard is stupid people walking ON the Drive. I’m not talking about abandoning cars for survival. I’m speaking of the idiots on the day after. In between white-out conditions, curious ignorants wandered onto the major highway. It drove me crazy because the last thing an overworked snowplower needs to worry about is sight-seers. But these snowbound people just had to part of the disaster efforts as obstacles.
Chicago Dramatists present the world premiere of Blizzard ‘67. Four coworkers carpool to the office. The small talk is minuscule. The ride is just a means to a dead end. They are all mere cogs in a corporate world. They don’t even know each other’s jobs or first names. On a warm January afternoon, Henkin brags about his new 1967 Chevy Caprice. The guys guess his secret. Henkin got a promotion. As the knowledge festers within the company men, the winds change. Two days later, it begins to snow en route to work. By 5pm, punching-out time, the carpool faces blizzard conditions. They decide to hit the road anyway. Somewhere in the West Loop, their lives spin out of control forever. Blizzard ‘67 dumps a natural disaster onto three men’s personal setback to turn a dicey commute into an irreversible catastrophe.
Playwright Jon Steinhagen has penned a-blizzard-in-the-life-of play. Steinhagen uses a stylized 4-person narrative to set the 1960’s corporate scene. If the “Mad Men” firm is Sak’s, then this company is Sears. It’s a non-glam but still white collar environment. The snappy dialogue and uber-masculine non-speak define each of the foursome’s personalities and hopes. Under the tight direction of Russ Tutterow, the talented ensemble engages with a certain amount of old-fashion, non-communicative, guy-guy persona. Whether in the car or on a telephone relay, there is a natural fluidity to these men’s interactions. John Gawlik (Landfield), Andy Hager (Bell), Andy Lutz (Emery), and Stephen Spencer (Henkin) pull together and apart with compelling disassociation. The humor is strong but so is the underlying angst.
Before male bonding and bromances, a man’s world was a little more competitive and a whole lot more impersonal. Steinhagen does a masterful job of recreating the male isolation of the time period and then drops two feet of snow on top of it. Tutterow plows through the snowstorm with well-paced action and humor. The company of Gawlik, Hager, Lutz, and Spencer shovel out thought-provoking performances. Blizzard ‘67 isn’t about the pretty white snow. It’s about the dark sludge left behind in a disaster’s aftermath.
Blizzard ‘67 continues through February 12th at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $32, and are available online at chicagodramatists.org (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information here. (Running time: 2 hours, which includes one intermission)
All photos by Jeff Pines
behind the scenes
Russ Tutterow* (director); Grant Sabin (set design); Jeff Pines* (lighting, photos); Joseph Fosco (sound); Samantha Jones (costumes); Emily Guthrie (props); Jenniffer J. Thusing* (stage manager); Becky Mock (production manager); Paul Grigonis (graphics); Anna Henson (projections); Joe Dybdal (tech director); Rachel Edwards Harvith* (asst. director)
* denotes CD Associate Artist