Tag: Josh Johnson

Review: The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Red Theater)

Semaj Miller and Alejandro Tey star as Chad Deity and Mace at Red Theater            

The Elaborate Entrance
  of Chad Deity

Written by Kristoffer Diaz
Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice (map)
thru Sept 16  |  tix: $0-$40  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

August 21, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Mnemonic (Red Tape Theatre)

Pavi Proczko, David Cady Jr., Gage Wallace, Jake Szczepaniak, Robert Oakes and Chris Carr star in Red Tape Theatre's "Mnemonic" by Complicite, directed by Brandon Ray. (photo credit: Austin D. Oie)        

Written by Complicite
Directed by Brandon Ray
DCASE Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph (map)
thru Oct 5  |  tickets: $15   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
                   Read review

September 24, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Review: Weekend Comedy (Oil Lamp Theater)

Jasmine Ryan and Nicola Howard star in Oil Lamp Theater's "Weekend Comedy" by Jeanne and Sam Bobrick, directed by Josh Johnson.        
Weekend Comedy

Written by Jeanne and Sam Bobrick
Directed by Josh Johnson
at Oil Lamp Theater, Glenview (map)
thru Nov 18  |  tickets: $25   |  more info 
        Read entire review

October 29, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: California Suite (Black Elephant Theatre)

Visitor from Philadelphia-Joe Ogiony and Elizabeth Rude, Black Elephant Theatre, California Suite.       
California Suite 

Written by Neil Simon 
Directed by Josh Johnson
at Chemically Imbalanced Theater (map)
thru July 1  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
           Read entire review

June 12, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Barefoot in the Park (Chemically Imbalanced)

Barefoot in the Park - Chemically Imbalanced 7
Barefoot in the Park

Written by Neil Simon 
Directed by Josh Johnson
Chemically Imbalanced, 1422 W. Irving Park (map)
thru Oct 9  |   tickets: $15   |   more info

Check for half-price tickets

      Read entire review

September 16, 2011 | 1 Comment More

REVIEW: Lower Debt (Livewire Chicago Theatre)

Down in the dumps..

Lower Debt_photo by Sebastian Aguirre_7

Livewire Chicago presents:

Lower Debt


written by Joshua Aaron Weinstein
directed by
Rebekah Scallet
at the Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western Ave.
through April 4th
(more info)

by Keith Ecker 

As has been pointed out by many smarter than me, it is worse to be the recipient of apathy than the target of hatred. That said, I don’t hate LiveWire Chicago Theatre’s  world premier production of Lower Debt. No, instead I just couldn’t care less about it, Lower Debt_photo by Sebastian Aguirre_5and it appeared that neither did anyone in the play. And this is supposed to be an “Everyman” tale?

The play’s got a solid synopsis. I’ll give it that. It’s set in the beginning of the 21st century, resembling a time that is as economically uncertain as present day but personal suffering is considerably worse, where a house is a tent tucked away in an abandoned building. CW (Brian P. Cicirello) is a copywriter at an ad firm. As we learn through video flashbacks, CW is laid off and left to simultaneously sell a screenplay and beg for change on the street, which we see in a scene where CW rambles to himself about pennies and dimes. The clip is so pregnant with self-importance I found myself rolling my eyes at the screen.

Eventually CW appears on stage in the tent town that nomadic bums Claude (Malcolm Callan), his wife Val (Melissa diLeonardo) and her sister Wendell (Annie Rix) have established. Claude is a bossy, hot-headed man who is protective of his property. He’s not hesitant to hit or push CW, which he does frequently. Meanwhile, Wendell takes a liking to CW, a feeling that is reciprocated. We know this because CW tells Wendell in hushed whispers that she doesn’t have to stay in Claude’s compound. It is a cliché love.

The tent town is also inhabited by a pill-pushing self-described pharmacist named Ames (Tamara Anderson), a kind-hearted cab driver named Rash (Josh Johnson), his dying lover Leah (Miriam Reuter) and a bum (Noah Lepawsky) whose periodic slips into existential ponderings are about as deep as Jack Handy’s “Deep Thoughts”.

Nothing much really happens throughout the play. A lot of people look angry at one another and walk from tent to tent. Alcohol is drunk. People occasionally leave the compound and then come back. Near the end of the play, there’s a twist, one that will jerk you awake because it involves a gun. But don’t get too excited. It’s laughably convoluted.

There’s little to no characterization. We as the audience don’t get to know any of these people. When some die, we just kind of shrug it off. Sure, there’s plenty of exposition about what life used to be like and who we all used to be before things went to hell. But it’s all talk and no action.

Lower Debt_photo by Sebastian Aguirre_2 Lower Debt_LiveWire_1
Lower Debt_photo by Sebastian Aguirre_6 Lower Debt_photo by Sebastian Aguirre_3

Speaking of talk, the dialogue in Lower Debt is atrocious. It plays like a transcribed conversation between high school stoners. The playwright, Joshua Aaron Weinstein (aka LiveWire’s Executive Director), obviously wants to tackle some big-picture concepts, but needs to learn to do it with more finesse. You can discuss life, death, society and materialism in a play, but you have to find some way to interweave it into interesting characters and plot. Otherwise it just sits there for everyone to stare at like a pet stain.

With no characterization and clunky speech, it is difficult to place much blame on the actors for their lackluster performances. They aren’t bad – just flat. Glenn Proud stands out the most as Claude’s cop brother, Damon, probably because he’s one of the only characters who doesn’t talk like a freshman philosophy major.

The use of video, which is completely dropped in the second half of the play, serves little purpose. The clips provide flashback about CW, but a clever director could just as easily stage these scenes with much greater effect. Also, the audio on the video is too low. Though sitting in the front row, I still had a very difficult time hearing. Hopefully this is just a technical sound issue with an easy fix.

Lower Debt is meant to be a commentary on contemporary times, exploring themes of community, ownership, loss and hope. But without interesting characters or a solid story to ground these lofty topics, the picture gets fuzzy and the audience’s attention spans and patience are tested.




March 8, 2010 | 0 Comments More