Goodbye Cruel World
A lively, romping farce
|The Strange Tree Group presents|
|Goodbye Cruel World|
Review by Katy Walsh
My first introduction to literature with a Russian influence was ”Rocky and Bullwinkle”. As a kid, I believed Boris and Natasha were typical Russian folks, spies without a sense of humor. I thought Russians were a serious, cold lot that hated squirrels. Since then, I’ve decided the Soviet Union’s abilities to endure tumultuous eras makes their dispositions much more light-hearted than their American counterparts.
The Strange Tree Group presents the Midwest premiere Goodbye Cruel World.
Semyon is unemployed, depressed and living in Russian government housing. His wife, mother-in-law and the neighbors are worried about him. What if he tries to kill himself or, worse, learns to play the tuba? But then again would that be so bad? Goodbye Cruel World is pure vaudeville to the tune of “Suicide is Painless.”
In 1928, Nikolai Erdman penned his satirical play “The Suicide.” Erdman’s writing was not well-received by the Russian government and it eventually landed him in Siberia. Playwright Robert Ross Parker adapted the satire for optimal slapstick buffoonery. The dialogue is ongoing one liners. The plot is over-the-top ridiculous. The orchestration is door-opening-closing burlesque. Literally, a door in the middle of the stage is pivotal to scene set-up with clever revolving signage. Strewn clothes lines of laundry across the stage. The simplistic look by the design team (Delia Baseman, Bob Kruse, Kate Nawrocki, Emily Schwartz, and Michael Huey) establishes a homey but impoverished tone.
Under the direction of Bob Kruse, the talented 6-member cast personify 27 distinct caricatures. Kruse keeps the energy high and his cast chasing the laughs. The comedic timing is dead on. For a suicidal-wannabee-tuba-player, Scott Cupper (Semyon) tackles life and death with carefree merriment. The entire ensemble works together as a tight crew. In particular, they do an ongoing shtick about who has to play the old Russian guy. The authentic responses to the “drawing straws” decision process makes it seem almost improv-ed. It’s hilarious! The cast continues to morph into a variety of caricatures in delightful absurdity. A standout is Joseph Stearns with deadpan perfection.
The summer is all about having fun. For three months, we try to shift into our childhood school break. We turn the extended daylight hours into post-work summer vacation. Goodbye Cruel World is a lively, romping mockery. It’s like sipping a cold, icy Miller Lite. It may not be a craft beer but it is less filling and tastes great. Sometimes on a hot evening, that’s all you need to amuse yourself.
Goodbye Cruel World continues through July 22nd at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 3pm. Tickets are $25, and are available by phone (773-975-8150) or online (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at StrangeTree.org. (Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes without intermission)
Photos by Tyler Core
behind the scenes
Bob Kruse* (director); Delia Baseman*, Kate Nawrocki*, Emily Schwartz*, Bob Kruse* (scenic, props); Jordan Kardasz (lighting); Michael Huey (sound); Delia Baseman (costumes, production manager); Phineas X. Jones (poster design); Tyler Core (photography); Sarah Luse (asst. production manager); Elissa Shortridge (stage manager); Walter Owen Briggs (tech director)
* denotes company member