Chicago Theatre Review
“Elling” at Red Twist
by Devlyn Camp
If ever there’s a black box to be seated in, it’s the Red one.
Opening their season last Saturday, the Chicago-premiering play is moving and meaningful, yet so completely funny. Red Twist’s production of Elling is a stimulated, welcoming look into the unrested minds of two openhearted men.
Played by Jeff-winning Peter Oyloe and set designer/new Co-Artistic Director Andrew Jessop, two uneasy men in an institution, Kjell and Elling, are finally permitted to leave and restart their adult lives. Through their experience together, the audience sees the world from their perspectives of unknowing, realizing the oddness of everyday life.
Elling sends the two childlike adults through a quick birth into a new society where they learn that to act normal is to be normal. Following natural instinct isn’t what is always socially acceptable, which is proven by Kjell’s uncontrolled hyper-concern with sex. Oyloe’s body language perfectly reflects the perplexed nature of Kjell. He rocks and wanders, looking for the answers (and women, if he can figure out what exactly he’s supposed to say to them). Meanwhile, Elling is uptight and unable to leave his home, because why should one have a home if they want to leave it? He’s paranoid and unable to make decisions after relying on his mother for his entire life until her death.
The relationship that develops between the lonely friends speaks for how much we rely on others, and asks what might fill the void when the one we depend on is gone. Experiencing the world and learning how to operate among the unknown is a crucial piece to being alive.
As Chicago theatregoers know, the imagination prerequisite for black box theatre is a must-have to enjoy the experience, but Red Twist takes the small box further now with this production. The brilliant set designed by Andrew Jessop (also in the title role) imagines the one-bedroom apartment into nightclubs, a poet’s library, a cabin and a mental institution. Tables raise from the floor, the wall empties out beds, and kitchen appliances double as makeshift devices. The set is simple, yet remarkably crafty.
“Innovative” doesn’t begin to describe the level of box theatre creativity at Red Twist. They are proof that expensive, thousand-person spectacle shows don’t hold up for a moment next to great drama, originality and a small playbook of people who know how to get the job done.
Red Twist Theatre
Now through October 30th
Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7:30 PM
Sunday at 3:00 PM
Tickets $25-30, available at www.redtwist.org
Peter Oyloe and Andrew Jessop, photo courtesy Kim Schechter
Contact Devlyn Camp