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Review: Blacktop Sky (Theatre Seven)

| March 16, 2013 | 0 Comments

Kristin E. Ellis and Julian Parker star in Theatre Seven's "Blacktop Sky" by Christina Anderson, directed by Cassie Sanders, part of Steppenwolf's Garage Rep 2013. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)        
       
Blacktop Sky 

Written by Christina Anderson   
Directed by Cassie Sanders
at Steppenwolf Garage, 1650 N. Halsted (map)
thru April 20  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     



     
       

Seeds of interesting ideas struggle to take root 

     

Julian Parker stars as Klass in Theatre Seven's "Blacktop Sky" by Christina Anderson, directed by Cassie Sanders, part of Steppenwolf's Garage Rep 2013. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

    
Theatre Seven i/a/w Garage Rep 2013 presents
    
Blacktop Sky

Review by Catey Sullivan

Blacktop Sky just might hold the record for the number of blackouts in a one-act drama. That’s a not a good thing. And the problem with Theatre Seven’s staging of Christina Anderson’s drama is bigger than just with pacing, for this 85-minute, 30+-scene one act. With a second half that feels like a pushmepullyou tug-of-war between lights up and lights down as wordless, micro-scenes take the stage, Anderson’s inconsequential drama loses whatever urgency it might have had. Which, alas, isn’t that much to begin with.

Kristin E. Ellis as Ida in Theatre Seven's "Blacktop Sky" by Christina Anderson, directed by Cassie Sanders, part of Steppenwolf's Garage Rep 2013. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)Directed by Cassie Sanders, the Theatre Seven staging is a static tale of Klass (Julian Parker), a homeless youth (a bit too well-scrubbed throughout to ever be believable as truly homeless) who has staked a claim to a park bench near a New York City housing project. His presence intersects with the lives of Ida (Kristin E. Ellis), a young woman living restlessly nearby with her mother and Wynn (Eric Lynch), Ida’s long-term boyfriend. The three make a conflicted triangle as Ida is both drawn to and repelled by the damaged man while Wynn grows increasingly annoyed with his girlfriend’s often reluctant outreach efforts.

The primary problems (other than all those blackouts) within Anderson’s narrative is that no one in the three-person story is especially memorable and the story itself defies credibility. Klass falls uncomfortably close to cliché with his quasi-poetic/philosophical ramblings. More problematically, he lacks the charisma needed to make us believe that Ida would be so fascinated with him. As for Ida and Wynn, they simply fail to make much of an impression. She’s got issues with her mother. He has a temper. As played here, their defining characteristics evoke little more than a shrugging meh. Any story spun from such a lackluster basis is going to suffer, and so it does here.

Anderson bookends Blacktop Sky with scenes of police brutality, but – like relationship of her characters – she fails to make those scenes resonate in any meaningful way. There’s no heightened sense of menace that ensues when the cops – represented only by offstage voices – show up to stir up trouble.

Kristin E. Ellis as Ida and Eric Lynch as Wynn in Theatre Seven's "Blacktop Sky" by Christina Anderson, directed by Cassie Sanders, part of Steppenwolf's Garage Rep 2013. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

The best part of Blacktop Sky is Lizzie Bracken’s wonderful set, a battered inner-city courtyard defined by the cracked, titular blacktop. The pocket park grows ever more seedy as Blacktop Sky winds on, morphing from gritty urban open space to a lot strewn with the castoff detritus that Klass gathers around him like a protective wall. As for Klass, he remains largely a cipher. We get bits and pieces of his story, but like Ida and Wynn, he’s underwritten to the point of character sketch as opposed to fully formed character.

There are seeds of some interesting ideas in Blacktop Sky, issues including class, race, police profiling and the dangerously troubled communication that can ensue when people miss connections. But Anderson fails to explore any of this with any depth. In the end, Blacktop Sky feels more like a first draft or an outline than a finished play.

  
Rating: ★★
  
   

Blacktop Sky continues through April 20th at Location, address (map), with performances in repertory – full schedule here.  Tickets are $20, and are available by phone (312-335-1650) or online through Steppenwolf.org (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at TheatreSeven.org(Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes, no intermission)

Julian Parker stars as Klass in Theatre Seven's "Blacktop Sky" by Christina Anderson, directed by Cassie Sanders, part of Steppenwolf's Garage Rep 2013. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow) Kristin E. Ellis as Ida and Eric Lynch as Wynn in Theatre Seven's "Blacktop Sky" by Christina Anderson, directed by Cassie Sanders, part of Steppenwolf's Garage Rep 2013. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)
Kristin E. Ellis stars as Ida in Theatre Seven's "Blacktop Sky" by Christina Anderson, directed by Cassie Sanders, part of Steppenwolf's Garage Rep 2013. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow) Julian Parker stars as Klass in Theatre Seven's "Blacktop Sky" by Christina Anderson, directed by Cassie Sanders, part of Steppenwolf's Garage Rep 2013. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Photos by Michael Brosilow 


     

artists

cast

Julian Parker (Klass), Kristin E. Ellis (Ida), Eric Lynch (Wynn), Marjie Southerland, Dominique Worsley (understudies)

behind the scenes

Cassie Sanders (director), Paige Collins (asst. director), Lizzie Bracken (set), Lee Keenan (lighting), Brenda Winstead (costume), Chris LaPorte (sound design), Toni Kendricks (props design), Taylor Fenderbosch (stage manager), Allaina Blackwell (asst. stage manager), Jennifer McClendon  (production manager), Christopher Kristant (tech director), Michael Brosilow (photos)

Kristin E. Ellis and Julian Parker star in Theatre Seven's "Blacktop Sky" by Christina Anderson, directed by Cassie Sanders, part of Steppenwolf's Garage Rep 2013. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

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Category: 2013 Reviews, Catey Sullivan, Garage Rep, Garage Theatre, Steppenwolf Garage Theatre, Theatre Seven

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