ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
Three Stories Up
Via Theatre in the Dark
by Mackenzie Gordon
Directed by Corey Bradberry
An immersive experience performed completely in the dark
by bonnie kenaz-mara
As I was sitting in the impenetrable dark with a gin gimlet in hand, it was easy to imagine a black and white cityscape and a smart, gumshoe dame smiling sardonically while crisscrossed with lines from the light of the window blinds. Of course it was all in my mind's eye, as Theatre in the Dark lives up to it's name and this fabulously fun noir thriller is indeed, performed in a dark so enveloping and complete that the audience audibly gasped when we all removed our blindfolds at the start of the show to see... absolutely nothing. Not a sliver of light penetrates the set of Three Stories Up. At first it was disconcerting, but I quickly became so absorbed in the story that I can't imagine this show any other way. The dialogue popped and the audience was so immersed in the plot that there was hardly a rustle or peep for the whole 80 minutes. Three Stories Up has the vibe of iconic pre-TV radio dramas, melded with the intimacy and immediacy of live performance, and the pure joy of being read to as a child. Highly recommended.
I joked with The Saints who were ushering the show, about how the theatre was getting their money's worth out of them. These ushers went above and beyond the usual easy seating duties by passing out blindfolds, and leading the audience to their seats in small groups, conga line style. It was a vulnerable, empathy inducing experience, and a great way to settle into the show.
The script for Three Stories Up is poetic, well written, and a joy to experience, and the actors more than do it justice. I thought they could have even punched up the noir jazz and rain motifs even more, but overall the vocal talent and live Foley sound effects were excellent. I had a front row seat, and it was an up close and personal experience that went well beyond stereo. I spent more than a few nervous minutes wondering how the actors navigate in the engulfing dark, and avoid landing in the audience's laps. This is a spoiler-free review as far as plot goes, but I will disclose their blocking secret. The performance space is a large plus, consisting of crossing carpet runners of different textures, and the actors are in socks. Pretty ingenious. If you're ready to get out of your comfort zone for a unique and memorable theatrical experience and some stellar storytelling, then head on out to Three Stories Up for some old school, noir fun, with a dark twist.
Three Stories Up // Theatre in the Dark from Corey Bradberry on Vimeo.
Theatre in the Dark, a new company that focuses on performances staged entirely in complete darkness, will mount as its inaugural production the Chicago premiere of the noir mystery thriller THREE STORIES UP by the Canadian-born Chicago playwright Mackenzie Gordon.The production is an immersive experience - performed completely in total darkness with sound effects and dialogue surrounding the audience,
In Gordon’s 80-minute drama, Vancouver transit cop Beatrice Dulaurier has found her detective husband’s dead body, The police call it a suicide, but Beatrice doesn’t buy that explanation. To find the truth, she enlists the help of her late husband’s last known informant, a drug runner who carries secrets of his own. The two embark on a hair-raising investigation through the city's colorful characters in search of justice… and revenge. Inspired by hard-boiled paperback novels and the radio mystery plays of the ‘30s and ‘40s, it introduces the audience to sadder-but-wiser, hard-boiled detectives and shady characters whose loyalties are never certain.
The new company is the brainchild of Director Corey Bradberry and Associate Producers Mackenzie Gordon, Kelly Greene, James McDougald, and Zachary Parkhurst.
Performed entirely in the dark, as it was in its 2016 world premiere in Vancouver, THREE STORIES UP will combine recorded sound, live Foley effects, and the human voice -- in front, beside, and behind the audience -- to create a three dimensional soundscape that will be far more enveloping and environmental than a mere radio play. Audiences will be blindfolded after their arrival at the performance venue and guided to their seats. They will remove their blindfolds after the performance begins in pitch darkness and the lights will remain out until curtain call. THREE STORIES UP will be unique among Chicago theatre productions in that patrons with low visibility will enjoy exactly the same experience as their fellow audience members.
Bradberry says, “One of the oldest traditions in noir storytelling is the use of setting as a main character. No set designer could outdo the descriptive language of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett, or for that matter, our playwright Mackenzie Gordon. THREE STORIES UP leans so hard into the words, we decided to turn out the lights altogether.”
THREE STORIES UP will be performed at The Church on Thorndale, 1244 W. Thorndale, in Edgewater. The Chicago production will be directed by Corey Bradberry and the cast will include the playwright, Mackenzie Gordon, and Bethany Arrington.
Left - right: Bethany Arrington, Mackenzie Gordon. Photo by Zachary Parkhurst.
Colin Thomas of VANCOUVER GREENROOM, in reviewing the 2016 premiere of THREE STORIES UP, called the play “Viscerally compelling, THREE STORIES UP makes you pay attention—and it pays off. The plot is satisfyingly complex, and phrase by phrase Gordon’s writing is gorgeous… Stroke of genius to set it in the dark… very, very rewarding.” Mark Robins of VANCOUVER PRESENTS said, “Gordon’s words, helped immensely by the performances, paint vivid pictures that transcend gimmick.”
Tickets and further information are available at www.theatreinthedark.com
October 24 – November 9, 2019
Venue: The Church on Thorndale, 1244 W. Thorndale, Chicago (west of Broadway, near Thorndale Red Line station)
Previews: Thursday October 24, Friday October 25 at 8 pm, Saturday October 26 at 3 and 8 pm
Press Opening Sunday October 27 at 7 pm and Wednesday October 30 at 8 pm
Regular run: October 31 – November 9, 2019
Thursdays – Saturdays at 8 pm, Sunday November 3 at 7 pm, Wednesday November 6 at 8 pm
Ticket Prices regular run October 31 – November 9: $35 general, $20 for persons age 25 and under. Group rates available.
Tickets on sale now at www.theatreinthedark.com, or at box office prior to showtime
Phone for info only (no ticketing): 312.285.0314
Accessibility: Due to the historical nature of our venue, entryways into and out of our building are non-ADA compliant. However, we encourage audiences with special needs to contact us in advance to see how best we can best accommodate them!
Mackenzie Gordon, Bethany Arrington, Corey Bradberry
Corey Bradberry (Director) is a stage director and producer committed to clear, efficient, and compelling storytelling. A Chicago newcomer, he most recently returned to his native Atlanta to direct MURDER! AT THE STRAND II: DARK MATTERS, an immersive sci-fi murder mystery which puts the audience in the central role of Investigator. Chicago: THE LAKES, THE MAN THAT CORRUPTED CHRISTMAS (Inertia Theatre Project); 24-Hour-Playfests (iO, Eclectic Full-Contact); SIMPLER DAYS (Woof Pack Comedy). Atlanta: MURDER! AT THE STRAND (Earl and Rachel Smith Strand); THE DEVIL TREE, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (The Collective Project Inc.); THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SIR WM MCGONAGALL (Atlanta Fringe). Education: Master of Fine Arts in Directing (Theatre), University of Southern Mississippi; Bachelor of Arts in Theatre & Performance Studies (Performance Concentration) from Kennesaw State University; additional training from Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre, Kennedy Center MFA Playwright’s Workshop + Directing Intensive, Second City Training Center. Corey was a 2015 National Directing Fellow through the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and was awarded the 2013 Emerging Artist Award for Theatre from the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs. www.coreybradberry.com
Mackenzie Gordon (Playwright, Actor) has been writing plays for ten years. His work has been published in DISCORDER MAGAZINE, CARTE BLANCHE, and Speakeasy Theatre’s PULL ANTHOLOGY. His plays have been performed by ITSAZOO Productions (DEBTS, FIVE RED BALLOONS), Western Canada Theatre (THE BALLAD OF THE BURNING LADY), Upintheair Theatre (VISITORS) and Level-Headed Friends Productions (SIX FINE LINES; SHAKE THE SHEETS!; DEAD CELEBRITIES). He is a three-time writing contributor to Sum Theatre's Pull Festival and a four-time Jessie Richardson Theatre Award nominee. THREE STORIES UP was workshopped during the 2014 Playwrights Theatre Centre Colony, dramaturged by author Michael Springate.
Bethany Arrington (Actress) is an actor, model, and voice over talent originally from Carmel, Indiana. She is a proud member of the Artistic Council and ensemble of NoMads Art Collective. Bethany is very pleased to be working with Theatre in the Dark for the very first time. She is represented by Lily’s Talent. Hear and see more of Bethany at bethanyarrington.com.