The Gacy Play
Going home for the holidays, Gacy-style
|Sideshow Theatre presents|
|The Gacy Play|
Review by Katy Walsh
As a single woman with skin that would make a nice dress, I’ve survived murder by putting people into two categories: serial killers and the others. On the bus, at a restaurant, in the next door apartment: killers have to commute, eat, live… somewhere. Being aware of this basic truth keeps me alive. I continually separate myself from potential disaster through successful profiling followed by isolation. I’ll be ready to be interviewed by the media after my neighbor is caught in a carnage-spree. I’ll finally get to say, “No, I’m not surprised.”
Sideshow Theatre presents the world premiere of The Gacy Play. In 1994, John Wayne Gacy Jr. was executed by lethal injection. His crime is killing at least 33 teenage boys and burying them under his home. Before his unfathomable notoriety, Gacy was just an ordinary guy with a wife, friends, family and a strange household odor. It’s Christmas, 1975. Gacy is spending the holidays fighting with his wife, drinking with friends and talking with ghosts. John Wayne is on his couch. And three dead guys are in his basement. The Gacy Play is a holiday-in-the-life-of-a-sociopath.
Playwright Calamity West zeroes in on the early days of a serial killer. It’s almost like a prequel to the bloody massacre in the distant future. West keeps the story normal, almost dull. Under the direction of Jonathan L. Green, there is no spooky-Jason-Friday-the-13th music. It’s actual Christmas music. The tension doesn’t simmer to a boil. It’s pretty lukewarm. Everything about this show borders on mundane… but maybe that’s the more disturbing point. Andy Luther (Gacy) plays it perfectly understated. Luther uses hiccup-like laughs to cover-up his innuendos. He follows up the chortling with a firm, unsettling statement. He is amicable AND menacing! The subtle contrast is poignant. A particularly powerful scene is Luther with the three dead guys (Alex Ring, Adam Shalzi, Andy Sheagren). The ghosts portray varying degrees of fate acceptance. Their presence captivates with a peek into Gacy’s calamitous basement and psyche.
Going home-for-the-holidays-Gacy-style is an interesting notion. The West-Green team go for a conventional and personal experience, not a slasher-thriller. A speed bump to getting into the mood for a good old-fashion killer Christmas is the theatre itself. Some of the intimacy is lost in the cavernous space. It’s difficult to hear some of the voices onstage and even harder to hear when they are talking offstage. These audio issues are a barrier to connecting to the characters. Of course, do you really want to get attached to a serial killer anyway?
Seeing The Gacy Play will leave you wondering about the person next to you. And if that person is Andy Luther, you might want to move seats… I’m just saying, “I won’t be surprised.”
The Gacy Play continues through July 29th at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 3pm. Tickets are $20-$25, and are available by phone (773-975-8150) or online at TheaterWit.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at SideshowTheatre.org. (Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes without intermission)
Photos by Jonathan L. Green
Andy Luther (John Wayne Gacy, Jr.), Jim Farrell (John Wayne), Elizabeth B. Murphy (Carol Gacy), Andrew Goetten (Dave), Joe Mack (Tom), Deanna Boyd (Peg), Alex Ring (Number 1), Andy Sheagren (Number 2), Adam Shalzi (Number 3)
behind the scenes
Jonathan L. Green (director, photos); Jordan Kardasz (lighting); John Kelly (asst. lighting, master electrician); Christopher M. LaPorte (sound design, original music); Sara Brown (set design); Nate Whelden (asst. set design); Angela Enos (costumes); Marissa Hughes (props); Jeffrey Gardner (dramaturg); Benjamin W. Dawson (production manager); Shawn Rutledge (tech director); Taree Chadwick (stage manager); Michelle Maier (asst. stage manager)