Tag: Route 66 Theatre
December’s end brings frantic resolutions, plans for heavy drinking and of course, a barrage of best/worst lists. Being the largest theater review site west of Broadway, Chicago Theater Beat covered over 600 shows in 2011, and the difficulty of choosing the top 25 speaks to the city’s vibrant cultural landscape. In alphabetical order, here are our choices for the year’s best:
Did I mention we’re in Pittsburgh?
|Route 66 Theatre presents|
|McMeekin Finds Out|
|Written by Scott T. Barsotti
Directed by Damon Kiely
at Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
through November 14 | tickets: $25-$37 | more info
Reviewed by Keith Ecker
I hate seeing a bad play. You walk into the theater full of hope and high on expectations. The play may start out okay: an intriguing opening, some snappy dialogue and characters that are brimming with potential. But by the intermission, you realize the mess you’ve gotten yourself into, so you reach for your car keys. But then you remember you’re a theatre critic, so you have to stay and see if this agonizingly, dead-on-arrival play miraculously gets any better. And, more often than not, it doesn’t. Now you’re out two hours of your time, plus you must set out on the task of panning someone else’s beloved creation, which, let me tell you, makes you feel like a total and utter schmuck.
Route 66 Theatre Company’s world premier of McMeekin Finds Out makes me feel like a schmuck. This play is so seriously flawed that I am amazed the collective of talented artists behind the production didn’t demand this thing incubate a bit longer before letting it go to term. Don’t get me wrong; there is certainly potential. But as it stands, this mess of a slapstick comedy is like seeing a mediocre improv show, where everything rests on a thrown-together goofy premise and where louder means funnier.
The play, written by Scott T. Barsotti, centers around a family in Pittsburgh. And Barsotti doesn’t let you forget for a minute where this play takes place. Mentions of the Steelers occur in every other sentence, and everyone possesses the standard Pittsburgh dialect, sprinkling their dialogue with words like “yinz.”
At the play’s opening, we witness the daughter Carla (Blair Robertson) getting on a guy at a house party. She’s drunk, and we can’t quite see the young man the way the couch is positioned. What we do know is that he’s immobilized somehow, possibly drunk or possibly tied up. In any case, she proceeds to have sex with him, which surprisingly serves as the basis of the play’s entire plot. That’s because, upon arriving home the next morning, Carla confesses to her parents, Guy (Randy Steinmeyer) and Pam (Kate Buddeke), that she may have raped the young man, since technically he didn’t consent.
That’s about it. There’s really not much more to this play. Oh sure, Guy and Pam are both laid up due to a car accident that was Guy’s fault. Guy now wears casts on both arms, which may have destroyed his career in construction. And Pam’s leg cast has made it impossible for her to continue being a chef for the time being. But Guy’s underlying guilt over the accident and Pam’s resentment are barely touched upon. Instead, the question of whether Carla raped a boy and what is the family to do dominates every single moment.
And perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad if we, the audience, hadn’t already seen exactly what happened within the first minutes of the play. We know that she took advantage of this boy. We know most of the circumstances. And so when characters continually say things like, “Well, we don’t really know what happened,” you want to yell, “We do!” and hope everyone just moves on to something more interesting.
Another issue I had with this play is that it’s just not funny. The humor, solely because of the subject matter, occasionally verges on edgy. But overall, most of the jokes are on par with sappy sitcom schlock.
For what it’s worth, much of the acting is solid. Steinmeyer is entertaining. His portrayal of Guy is as if you mashed Edith and Archie Bunker into one person. Likewise, Buddeke provides some much-needed understatement and realism to this otherwise over-the-top, harebrained play.
McMeekin Finds Out doesn’t know what it’s trying to say. It goes nowhere while being simultaneously all over the place. Worst of all, there’s no driving force that compels the audience to keep watching. Give this play a thorough rewrite or transform it into a brief one act and you may have something. Otherwise, the only thing you’ll find out is that you just sat through a bad play.
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The Castle of Otranto – First Folio Theatre
Dirty Talking Amish – Gorilla Tango Theatre
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity – Victory Gardens Theater
Endira – Aguijon Theater
The Hundred Dresses – Chicago Children’s Theatre
Kill the Old, Torture Their Young – Steep Theatre
The Last (and therefore Best) Comedy Show on Earth – Gorilla Tango Theatre
The Mercy Seat – Profiles Theatre
Mouse in a Jar – Red Tape Theatre
Richard III – Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Salem! The Musical – Annoyance Theatre
Sleeping Beauty – Big Noise Theatre
Sleepy Hollow – Theatre-Hikes
A Streetcar Named Desire – Polarity Ensemble Theatre
Taking Steps – UIC Theater
Baroque and Beatles – Chicago a cappella
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Circle Theatre
Desperate – Gorilla Tango Theatre
A Hampstead Hooligan in King Arthur’s Court – Chicago dell’Arte
High Fidelity…The Musical – Route 66 Theatre
Lorca in a Green Dress – Halcyon Theatre
Merce Cunningham Dance Company – Dance Center of Columbia College
Miami City Ballet – Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
The Miracle Work – Village Players Performing Arts Center
The Set Up – Prop Thtr
A Shroud for Lazarus – Halcyon Theatre
Texas Sheen – Chemically Imbalanced Comedy