Written by Chance Bone and Andrew B. Swanson
World premiere holds many secrets, little light
|Jackalope Theatre Company presents|
Review by Lawrence Bommer
Starting with the title of this new work by Jackalope Theatre company members Chance Bone and Andrew Burden Swanson, more questions than answers dog this world premiere. Why The Casuals, since this Eisenhower-era drama is not about a doo wop men’s group? Anyway, there’s nothing casual about the play’s detonation of Atomic Age secrets, most of which remain exasperatingly unexplained in a plot that’s alternately coy or confusing and maddeningly unsure about its chronology. (Would it be so damn hard to indicate in the program the play’s times and locales? Rhetorical question…) Actually, “exposure” might be a better term for all these skeletons in the closet–since one family in 1955 suffers from two cases of leukemia brought on by watching atom bomb tests in the Nevada desert too close for their future.
Spirited but inevitably unfocused, Jonathan Berry’s staging of this cryptic drama concentrates on Richard Hughes (a much divided Ed Dzialo), a supposedly heroic host of military radio during World War II. For a dozen years he’s been vetting hapless test subjects in the Army’s reckless A-bomb tests of radiation poisoning (a term never uttered in this too-reticent play). Richard is playing a full-time game of “I’ve Got A Secret,” since he never tells the truth—and The Casuals is all about truth if it’s about anything (which is an open question)—about a brother and a father’s supposedly heroic deaths in battle and whether one of his interviewees turned out to be a multiple murderer. “If” plays a big role here, just when you want “then” to relieve us of assorted quandaries.
Since said secrets are barely divulged, of course, they’re never resolved in this frustrating eight-actor two-acter. Instead, much of the action is frittered away with inconclusive small talk between whitebread characters or scenes that peter out just when they’re about the deliver some goods. Out of apparent desperation the authors throw in a final scene in which an Army honcho (Norm Woodel) warns Richard to toe the line and not make waves. It’s ironic because The Casuals does just that over and over. When it comes to telling the real stories behind these Cold War casualties, yes, it is far too casual.
The Casuals continues through July 28th at DCASE Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph (map), with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 3:30 and 7:30pm. Tickets are $15, and are available by phone (773-340-2543) or online through Tix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at JackalopeTheatre.org. (Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes, includes an intermission)
Photos by Alex Hand
behind the scenes
Jonathan Berry (director), John Wilson (scenic design), Stefin Steberl (costume designer), Jess Harpenau (lighting design), Thomas Dixon (sound design), Eleanor Kahn (props design), Elana Boulos (casting) Allison Raynes (stage manager) and Kaiser Ahmed (producer), Alex Hand (photos)