Chicago Theatre Review
Stagnant 'Middle Ground' at Side Project
By Devlyn Camp
When one plays a game they’re applying strategy with chance. I know this plan can work, and hopefully my opponent will unknowingly cooperate.
Cards are dealt, words are exchanged, poker face. This multiple-person dance of intelligence carries on, while somewhere in the back, we, the theater crowd, sit at the slots and leave it all on chance. There’s not much strategy to picking the right show. We drop in a coin, pull the lever, and pray to Dionysus that there’s an intermission getaway if the play bombs. We’re playing the slots, Chicago theatre-goers, and in our game there’s no Tommy Glenn Carmichael.
Anyone who is out and about regularly seeing shows is bound to come across a dud. It’s unfortunately inevitable. And if any readers caught my recent soapbox digression, it’s my opinion that such duds are typically lacking comedy. In the case of Side Project Theatre Company’s ‘Through the Middle Ground,’ there is much more lacking. It begins with an extremely drawn out, very quiet opening dialogue. The audience’s attention has already ducked out.
The two act play takes place in an apartment where a soldier returns home to his girlfriend after battle. He is different, but so is she. The only thing he seems to enjoy in life now is his new stray pet bird. This exposition is formed within the first scene, and then… nothing. As the powerless piece keeps on, it seems there’s actually no plot. There are two people talking, a caged bird, and an on-stage dripping faucet that holds more attention than the entire first act. It’s all small talk and long silences with little effort from the actors. As far as critical analysis goes, there’s so little to discuss.
But it’s easy to whine away at the flops, although they’re bound to happen. As with anything, we take them in stride. There are shows that have no story, no intelligent dialogue, no intrigue… a.k.a. goose egg. Sometimes we have to look back at the flatlined failure and remember: They can’t all be Book of Mormon.
What do you think? Post your comments below. Let’s talk.
THROUGH THE MIDDLE GROUND
The Side Project Theatre Company
Through December 18th
Tickets $20, available at thesideproject.net
Contact critic at firstname.lastname@example.org