Thursday, December 4, 2008


REVIEW: Cut To The Quick

Cut To The Quick: Splayed Verbiage
Written and
Directed by Various Artists

Presented by The Side Project

Through Dec 21st 2008

For ticket information and performance times click HERE

19 Plays. 3 Programs. 1 Theme.

Cut To The Quick
is a festival of short works presented by the Rogers Park company The Side Project at their extremely intimate Jarvis theater. Artistic Director Adam Webster states in the program that this series has been a great opportunity to work with many new writers, actors, crew and directors. It's also a fairly quick and easy way to put up a production. That's not a slam. It's brilliant. You'll see more companies doing this. A small team of a writer, director and a few actors can get a ten-minute play together on rather short notice and on their own schedule. The trick is making sure they're all there for performances.

The Side Project has broken down their festival into three programs; Splayed Verbiage, Splinters and Shrapnel and Static/Cling. Each one, apparently, devoted to a theme. I saw Splayed Verbiage. I have no idea what the theme was. I also don't think that's important. What is important is that it is a strong evening of theater.

Splayed starts off with emerging birth-like sounds that erupt in a woman simply dragging herself out of the bed she shares with her husband. 78, by Laurel Haines and directed by Gina LoPiccolo quickly runs the couple, portrayed by Kelley Minneci and the physically deft Daniel Howard through the stages of life. It was a good choice for kicking off the evening. It reminded me that this wasn't an evening of bloated comedy sketches. This is theater. If there's a gimmicky concept, it's there for a purpose and mined for insight rather than laughs.

The rest of the evening chugs up and down through monologues, two-person scenes and a few slightly larger pieces. The styles range from straightforward to downright bizarre. Splayed is most successful in its two-person scenes. The New Lonely, by Andrew Hinderaker and directed by Vance Smith, is driven by Mike Harvey's recount of a one-night stand to a friend that tears through the seams of a tale of conquest to show us the loneliness and hunger underneath. It ends on a joke that undermines the intelligence of Mike's character, but it's forgivable, especially when handled so expertly by Joshua Toups. Black and White, by Mark Young, directed by Anna C. Bahow, pits a young sailor on a Chicago day trip against an art school chick on an El platform. What could have been a Neil Simon-y odd couple cute-meet goes beyond the surface to show us there's more to people than what we initially make of their appearance. Aaron Carter's O'Dark Thirty was one of my favorite pieces. Two buddies meet in a bar the night before one of them is returning to Iraq. It's played very nicely and puts human faces an that unneccessary war over there. Brett Neveu's Ethnic Cleansing Day, subtly delivered by Bob Wilson and Mike Harvey, again, is a disquieting reminder of how skeletons end up neatly packed into family closets.

Two pieces completely lost me, which, for a festival of 12 works is pretty good! Space, by Laura Jacmin and directed by Megan Shuchman, is so mired in its style that I have no idea what it's about story-wise. Fortunately, it hits you over the head with a hammer-encased message at the end. What keeps that piece entertaining is Cheryl Roy's delightful and energetic performance as Alice. Another piece that just seemed to try too hard to pack too much into a small space was Agony in the Garden by Crystal Skillman. There's one good idea about a friend who steals another friend's ashes. Unfortunately, it gets lost in too many other less interesting ideas. It also has a contrived happy ending.

One thing that I thought was sheer brilliance from a production point of view was the first act closer. It was a piece called Not That (But Something Else) by Brian Golden and directed by Chelsa Marcantel. And it features everyone. Even a few people not in any other piece. It's a great way to sneak in a curtain call and allow the actors from the first half a graceful exit from the proceedings and it also introduces us to the actors coming up.

The show is worth seeing. If you have never been to The Side Project, all the more reason to see this show. It's a strong reminder that when it comes to Chicago theater, good things come in small packages.



Yesterday, I asked...

"To illustrate a loophole in procedures, the NY Daily News stole what?"

54% said "Donald Trump's hair"
- Don't touch the Don's hair. Your fingers will burn.

19% said "The Brooklyn Bridge"

18% said "The Statue of Liberty"
- We're going to give it back to the French. Needs too much upkeep.

9% got it right with "The Empire State Building"

According to The New York Daily News, in one of the biggest heists in American history, the Daily News "stole" the $2 billion Empire State Building.

And it wasn't that hard.

The News swiped the 102-story Art Deco skyscraper by drawing up a batch of bogus documents, making a fake notary stamp and filing paperwork with the city to transfer the deed to the property.

The massive ripoff illustrates a gaping loophole in the city's system for recording deeds, mortgages and other transactions.

The loophole: The system - run by the office of the city register - doesn't require clerks to verify the information.

Less than 90 minutes after the bogus documents were submitted on Monday, the agency rubber-stamped the transfer from Empire State Land Associates to Nelots Properties LLC. Nelots is "stolen" spelled backward.

Better return it. Don't want to piss off the previous owner.