Review: The Last Game (Wight Rabbit Productions)

| July 22, 2012
The cast of Wight Rabbit Productions' "The Last Game" by Richard James Zieman and SamIAm The-MC, directed by Pawel Grajnert.        
       
The Last Game 

Written by Richard James Zieman
Lyrics by SamIAm The-MC 
Directed by Pawel Grajnert
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru Aug 5  |  tickets: $23-$25   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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Amateurish and gratuitous ‘Game’

     

The cast of Wight Rabbit Productions' "The Last Game" by Richard James Zieman and SamIAm The-MC, directed by Pawel Grajnert.

    
Wight Rabbit Productions presents
    
The Last Game

Review by Lauren Whalen 

The best part of Chicago theatre is open arms: new voices are welcomed each season, with ready access to resources. Still, fresh companies and old veterans must bear in mind that audiences have a plethora of plays to choose from on any given weekend, and every show is an investment of an individual’s money and time. If only The Last Game had been more conscientious of the above, perhaps it wouldn’t be such a mess.

Set on Chicago’s notoriously rough West Side, The Last Game tells the story of gangbanger Placido (Gio Gonzalez), who dreams of becoming a rapper – if only he could escape the clutches of The Pharaoh (Eric Walker). Placido fears early death and yearns to start his career in Los Angeles, but he owes The Pharaoh money and, more importantly, runs the gang leader’s card game. Tonight’s game will be Placido’s last, as he schemes to put one over on The Pharaoh and escape with his life.

Most of the above plot summary was gleaned from The Last Games promotional postcard. Without it, there’s no way I would have been able to discern what was happening. Ninety percent of the cast mumbled their lines: only Walker as The Pharaoh was understandable the entire show. Long pauses between dialogue may be owing to a lack of memorization or sloppy playwriting, and Placido’s two raps are poorly executed and seem to come out of nowhere. If the program is any indication, the majority of the cast doesn’t have much acting experience. And that’s fine – but rookie actors need strong, sure direction, which wasn’t present here either. And at a scant 85 minutes (which includes a 15-minute intermission), the play would have been better off as a one-act, especially since the act break was preceded by a nonsensical line of dialogue and the audience was noticeably jarred when the lights came up again.

The Last Game gets off to a rough start: three minor characters stand on stage and give statistics describing Chicago’s high murder rate. Two of them are reading off a sheet of paper. Director Pawel Grajnert has an MFA in film from Columbia University: perhaps he is trying to replicate the title card one might see in a movie. It doesn’t translate to the stage, and the fact that the actors are reading off a sheet of paper suggests a lack of preparation (was this a last minute addition? Or could they not be bothered to memorize?), which looks extremely unprofessional.

Walker is the production’s most experienced actor, and its strongest. As The Pharaoh, he is equal parts menacing and charismatic, flashing a gun with effortless practice without diluting its deadly effect. And Sharlet Webb deserves kudos for costuming desperate waitress Aurora (Adira Hanna) with gritty realism: on any given day, young women on the West Side look exactly like Aurora. It’s unfortunate that The Last Game otherwise suffered from a lack of guidance: the actors had no real direction and the script wasn’t given proper feedback in order to improve. The production could have been another Oedipus el Rey: daring in its violence, with possibility rising out of the ashes of destruction. Instead, The Last Game is safe, indecipherable and boring. Up your game, please, or take it elsewhere.

  
Rating:
  
   

The Last Game continues through August 5th at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm and 7:30pm.  Tickets are $23-$25, and are available by phone (773.327.5252) or online through PrintTixUSA.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at Stage773.com(Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes, includes an intermission)


     

artists

cast

Luis Espinosa (El Grito), Gio Gonzalez (Placido), Adira Hanna (Aurora), Frank Isa (Sal), Michael Moody (Miguel), Christopher McMorris (Clip), Dustin Sharpe (Larry), Joseph Shaw (Credo), Eric Walker (The Pharaoh)

behind the scenes

Pawel Grajnert (director); Kate Miller (asst. director); Francine L. Brown (stage manager); Steve Ruggiero, David Elliot (producers); Sharlet Webb (costumes, props)

12-0737

Wight Rabbit Productions logo

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Category: 2012 Reviews, Lauren Whalen, Stage 773, World Premier

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