An uncomfortably powerful production
|Idle Muse Theatre presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
Idle Muse Theatre presents the Chicago premiere of Lonesome Hollow. In the near future, the U.S. has found an effective way to punish sex offenders. They become the residents in their own isolated town. These towns are governed by a private company. The company has authority to enforce order and normalcy without interference. The town of Lonesome Hollow has become one of these new finagled prisons to keep children safe and offenders contained. Nye is a child molester. Tuck is a photographer. Nye likes pictures of naked kids. Tuck takes pictures of nudes. They both have been sentenced to Lonesome Hollow. Where is the justice? Lonesome Hollow is the end destination for modern day witch hunts.
Playwright Lee Blessing has spun a fascinating tale of political extremists. The premise is inconceivable and totally believable at the same time. It’s uncomfortably powerful. Under the skillful direction of Lenny Walberg, this cast captivates in this wacky world of absurdity. At the core of the story are the two very different inmates. Matthew Dyson (Nye) is the offensive deviant. Dyson is impressive in his emotional rants and physical impairments. At the other end of the spectrum is Nathan Pease (Tuck). Pease is a quiet and intense presence. His fixation on his labyrinth building seems odd until the play builds an understanding of the environment. Once Pease’s horrific situation is established, I want to help him set the stones for his spiritual path. Heart-tugging! The Dyson and Pease’s unlikely pairing is compelling. Their cigarette interaction is particularly sad and beautiful. The rest of the talented ensemble adds to the intriguing mayhem: desperate Tuckie White (Pearl), abusive Grace Abele (Mills), and creepy Joel Thompson (Glover).
As Lonesome Hollow continues to reveal itself, it’s goes from a big pit of despair to the Grand Canyon of devastation. The glimpses into the art vs. porn, artist vs. offender, and punishment vs. persecution are strong examinations. These debates seem one-elected-official-away from this fiction becoming our reality. Scary! To match this apocalyptic tone, Composer Matthew Nischan provides a haunting and ominous soundtrack. It was still playing as I exited Lonesome Hollow and walked down Jarvis. I felt like the woman in a movie who escapes from being imprisoned in the asylum, walking away as the credits roll to the end song. From lights up through the walk down Jarvis, I was enthralled with my visit to Lonesome Hollow.
Lonesome Hollow continues through March 17th at Side Project Theatre, 1439 W. Jarvis (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 3pm. Tickets are $15-$20, and are available by phone (773-340-9438) or online through TicketTurtle.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at IdleMuse.org. (Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes, includes an intermission)
Photos by Lenny Wahlberg
behind the scenes
Lenny Wahlberg (director, photos), Tristan Brandon (production manager), Libby Beyreis (violence design), Becky Cagney (stage manager), Erin Gallagher (costumes), Matt Nischan (sound design), Laura Wiley (lighting).