10-4: The Truck Stop Plays
Written by Anthony Ellison, Tyler JC Whidden,
A quartet of shorts fueled by comedy
|Chemically Imbalanced Comedy presents|
|10-4: The Truck Stop Plays|
Review by Keith Glab
Ryan Patrick Dolan leads a quartet of students from the Ohio University MFA playwright program to produce four short plays, all set at a rest stop. Each tale gets told quickly and simply, befitting the ephemeral nature of a visit to one of these nuggets of Americana.
Dolan makes a big deal about the fact that all four playwrights are male yet the four directors for these shows are female. The theory behind providing a different perspective makes some sense, though none of the pieces deal with gender issues directly. The notion ultimately fails to resonate; the gender of the creative teams for these particular vignettes just doesn’t overly matter much.
Having four playwrights who attend school in rural Ohio gives the often absurdist pieces an aura of authenticity, however. A Chicago audience can get on board with these larger-than-life characters/situations and think perhaps they accurately reflect life in small towns. The result is a quick and fun night of theatre. None of these plays are likely to cause any major epiphanies in the audience, but they serve the purpose of telling entertaining stories. Since none of the four straightforward plays last more than 20 minutes or challenge comprehension, 10-4: The Truck Stop Plays could serve as a great introduction for someone who doesn’t normally patronize storefront theatre.
Lindy (Cat Abood) serves as both rest stop attendant and town nurse, which leads Kiel (Ryan Heywood) to take his eight-year old festering leg wound to her. When her ex-flame (Damian Anaya) who doubles as town sheriff and town plumber enters, a hilariously absurd love triangle appears. The cast exhibits great comedic instincts to set the tone for the evening.
Three siblings bicker as they travel to their mother’s funeral services. This one’s staged a bit awkwardly with the cast delivering most of their lines out to the audience rather than to each other, but it takes off when bags of Doritos get flung everywhere. Becky (Catherine Dildilian) carries the action as the Type A personality sibling and Kate Marie Smith has some fun moments as the free-spirited Samantha. Dave (Lloyd Vincent Anderson) never really solidifies as a character and is performed with low energy and low stakes.
As the title suggests, Belinda Carlisle (Brittany Stock) takes her Go-Go’s tour bus through Oklahoma and sends her guitar technician Ricky (Jimmy Pennington) to order 1100 chili dogs from a rest stop. Haja (Lauren Gilbert) delights as the fawning country fangirl, first over Ricky (who purports to be the lead guitarist), then over Ms. Carlisle herself. Some of the 80s terminology and references are fun, but the plot of this piece whirlwinds around rather nonsensically.
The evening ends on a macabre note, as Molly (Elizabeth Birnkrant) enlists hit girl Gertrude (Sarah-Jayne Ashenhurst) to kill her rich husband. Dolan’s script explores the dynamics of marriage in a darkly humorous way, but Neal’s staging stagnates the narrative into two talking heads for most of the time. The surprise ending makes this piece an appropriate one with which to close an enjoyable night of theatre.
10-4: The Truck Stop Plays continues through August 31st at CIC Theater, 1422 W. Irving Park (map), with performances Thursdays-Sundays at 8pm. Tickets are $10, and are available online through BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at TruckStopPlays.wordpress.com. (Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission)
Photos by Ryan Patrick Dolan
Cat Abood (Lindy), Damian Anaya (Sherrif), Lloyd Vincent Anderson (Dave), Sarah-Jayne Ashenhurst (Gertrude), Elizabeth Birnkrant (Molly), Catherine Dildilian (Becky), Lauren Gilbert (Haja), Ryan Heywood (Kiel), Jimmy Pennington (Ricky), Kate Marie Smith (Samantha), Brittany Stock (Belinda Carlisle)
behind the scenes
Ryan Patrick Dolan (producer, photos), Karisa Bruin, Mary Rose O’Connor, Jeri Frederickson, Ashley Neal (directors), Sarah Borer (stage manager), Kaitlyn Grissom (technical design), Jake Ross (lighting design), Christina Gorman (fight choreographer, Burger King)