Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:
Victims of Duty by Eugene Ionesco
at A Red Orchid Theatre
1531 N. Wells Ave. Chicago, IL 60610
By Catherine Hellmann, Guest Critic
Remember the old commercial for grape jelly that suggested: “With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good”? Well, I was reminded of this when watching Victims of Duty, “With a name like Ionesco, it’s got to be weird.” Absurdist theater makes me whimper, and to admit such a thing is like saying the Emperor has no clothes, or I am tragically unhip (which my teens can attest to anyway…)
PHOTO CREDIT FOR ALL PRODUCTION SHOTS: fadeout foto
Karen Aldridge (Madeleine), Michael Shannon (The Detective), and Guy Van Swearingen (Choubert)
Ionesco’s play begins with a quiet couple onstage. The husband, Choubert, is reading the newspaper; the wife, Madeleine, is sewing. They chat about dog poop on the sidewalk in the neighborhood, how the government is encouraging citizens to be detached to conquer problems, and opinions on theater. The husband, played by Ensemble Member Guy Van Swearingen, bemoans how nothing new ever happens in theater; everything is a “thriller.” (Cue: a visitor who will shake things up in this tranquil home.) Oh, and there is a clawfoot bathtub, half-filled with water, between them. Oh, and a now-famous movie star is in the production, which is really why anyone, myself included, wants to see it.
Aldridge, Van Swearingen, Shannon
With Michael Shannon from the Academy-Award winning movie The Shape of Water in the role of The Detective, A Red Orchid Theatre has a hit show that sold out its entire run in minutes. Both Van Swearingen and Shannon were in the original production at A Red Orchid in 1995, along with director Shira Piven; ticket sales then involved some begging. The space is small and intimate, which adds to the thrill of being there. A Red Orchid could realistically sell “safe” versus “unsafe seats” if the audience doesn’t mind getting wet from the pool of water onstage which the actors swish around in. (I wondered if the actors have an alternate set of clothing for their second show later that evening.)
Rich Cotovsky (Nicolas D’eu)
The Detective is searching for “Mallot with a t” who lived in their building. The sedate couple is intrigued and invite the seemingly timid but soon-aggressive Detective into their home. The biggest laugh came when the couple referred to the “sweet face” of the Detective. His interrogation involves force-feeding Choubert bread and having him submerge in the pool, as our memories can be fleeting like liquid. (I had sympathy for the stage crew and the splashing they will have to clean up after every performance.)
Karen Aldridge is wonderful as the wife who is initially darning socks mildly, then playfully changes into a sexy dress to entice the Detective. When he asks her for a cup of coffee, she willingly obliges by frantically bringing out cup after cup after cup, lining them up along the edge of the stage. (Reminding me of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” where T.S. Elliott observed: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”)
Mierka Gierten (The Lady)
Van Swearingen, Gierten,
In a time when the real/fake news is mind-boggling and our commander-in-chief is a former reality-tv star-Narcissist, do we need entertainment to be more absurd? As Ms. Piven writes in her Director’s Notes: “Now there is also a social/political resonance that we can’t escape, as much as we might want to. Themes of torture, blind compliance to authority and the absurdity (not to mention the insidiousness) of every aspect of our current political morass” was present in their rehearsals.
Aldridge, Van Swearingen
Shannon, Van Swearingen, Aldridge
Perhaps Ionesco was warning us to be citizens who are not detached by society’s problems, for innocent bystanders who are unaffected by turmoil around them are not helping.
Victims of Duty is running through August 5. Good luck scoring a ticket.
Van Swearingen, Aldridge
Shannon, Gierten, Van Swearingen, Aldridge
Check www.aredorchidtheatre.org for last minute tickets, as some do become available. If you miss those, show up in person and try their standby lines. They are sometimes even able to get everyone in!
Ensemble Members Michael Shannon (The Detective) and Guy Van Swearingen (Choubert), as well as Karen Aldridge (Madeleine), Rich Cotovsky (Nicolas D’eu), and Ensemble Member Mierka Gierten (The Lady).
Title: Victims of Duty
Written By: Eugene Ionesco
Directed by: Shira Piven
Creative Team: Danila Korogodsky (Production Design), Ensemble Member Mike Durst (Lighting Design), and Brando Triantafilou (Sound Design)
Regular Run: July 17 – August 5, 2018
Tuesday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, July 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, July 20 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 21 at 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 22 at 3:00 p.m.
Wednesday, July 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, July 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 28 at 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 29 at 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 31 at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, August 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, August 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 4 at 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 5 at 3:00 p.m.
Schedule: Tuesdays: 7:30 p.m. (July 17 & 31)
Wednesdays: 7:30 p.m. (July 11 & 25)
Thursdays: 7:30 p.m. (July 12, 19 & 26)
Fridays: 7:30 p.m. (July 13 & 20 and August 3)
Saturdays: 3:00 p.m. (July 21 & 28 and August 4)
and 7:30p.m. (July 14, 21 & 28 and August 4)
Sundays: 3:00 p.m. (July 22, 29 and August 5)
Location: A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells Ave.
Box Office:Located at 1531 N. Wells Ave, Chicago, (312) 943-8722; or online www.aredorchidtheatre.org