Jumble of story lines do not make a whole
|Theatre Seven presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
Theatre Seven of Chicago presents the professional world premiere of American Storm. In 1962, a young horse surprises an entire town with his speed. Sounds like the perfect holiday heart-warming story!? Well, add in an autistic boy, a Kennedy-chasing socialite, an eating disorder jockey, a smart ass kid, a corporate guy, a government man, a vet, a trainer, a stable owner, the jockey’s wife, the jockey’s mother-in-law and her ex, who also works at the track. And then besides the actual horse race focus, additional themes of the Cuban missile crisis, shootings and suicide, affairs, racial discrimination, perfume, and private enterprise vie for our attention. There is a whole lot of story swirling around this stage. American Storm is at blizzard conditions.
Playwright Carter Lewis penned a robust play about horse racing. Lewis takes the familiar and beloved Secretariat-Seabiscuit genre and attempts to infuse it with corporate, cultural and personal scandals. The multiple storylines are almost evenly prioritized, making it difficult to determine what’s really going on. There is an insider’s horse racing perspective that continually intrigues – but then the story shifts. I’m ready to invest my energy into learning horse racing but the thoroughbred gets stabled again. I now need to pay attention to Cuba or the Kennedys or cosmetics or autism.
Director Brian Golden takes on this ambitious project. Most of the pacing trots right through the complex script. Some scene transitions get clunky as sidebar action gets a delayed lighting cue. Golden’s direction is at its best during the actual horse racing bits, wherein the audience is transported to the grandstand by watching the facial reactions of the huge cast viewing the race.
Despite the convolution of material, there are standouts digging their heels into the turf and establishing a strong presence. An endearing and hilarious Anthony DiNicola(Miguel) plays jockey with bilingual animation. HIs mother-in-law, Donna McGough (Margaret), brings a natural, small town cadence to the racetrack. Jabbing her ex or protecting her daughter, McGough’s understated performance is genuine perfection. Lucy Carpetyan (Jakey) delivers controlled intensity. Carpetyan broods over her horse. During the race, I continue to watch her. Her body is rigid but her eyes are incredibly expressive. She knows exactly where that horse is.
The only thing missing in scenic designer Joe Schermoly’s set is actual horses. Schermoly creates a multiple stalled barn. The Dutch doors serve as clever exits and entrances for actors. Upon arrival, the stage sets us up for a horse tale. So, we are ready for a thoroughbred! Lewis needs to bridle the multiple themes and focus on the horse. By reigning in some of the ancillary storylines, Lewis could have American Storm run for the roses.
American Storm continues through December 16th at Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map) with performances Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 2:30pm and 7:30pm. Tickets are $20-$25, and are available by phone (773-404-7336) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at TheatreSeven.org. (Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes, includes an intermission)
Photos by Nicole Gazzano
Scott William Anderson (Robert Duffet), Lucy Carapetyan (Jakey), Anthony DiNicola (Miguel), Susie Griffith (Eudora), Johnny Meyer (Stuck), Donna McHough (Margaret), Jim Poole (De Ferenczi), Mark J. Shallow (Doc), Sean Sinitski (Harley), Andre Teamer (Arthur Figgets), Destin Teamer (Martin), Hilary Williams (Bonnie)
behind the scenes
Brian Golden (director); Joe Schermoly (scenic design); Brenda Winstead* (costume design); Justin Wardell* (lighting); Jeff Kelley (sound design); Kerith Parashak (props design); Adam Goldstein (dialect coach); Nick Ward* (production manager); Caitlin O’Rourke (stage manager); Nicole Gazzano (photos)
* denotes Theatre Seven company member