Chicago Theatre Review
‘The Gray Girl’ Shines Bright at Factory Theater
By Devlyn Camp
It’s been a stream of tough plays lately, at least for some of us. It feels like it’s been a few weeks since something opened that was at least somewhat exciting to talk about, tweet about, or tumblr on (whatever that means, kids). But then, enter Factory Theater. The final show to open in their 2011 season, ‘The Gray Girl,’ is an unexpectedly spooky crime-thriller of the 1950s. Both haunting and powerful, the scenes open lit by an upstage panel of windows silhouetting the posed characters. Each scene reveals a new piece to the case of two missing reporters who co-authored an exposé on Chicago crime in Riverview Park. These pieces and parts open skillfully staged flashbacks and introduce more intriguing characters.
The show takes a great twist with a ghost haunting the criminal in charge, politician Richard Morse (Shannon Parr). In tense scenes in which the power goes out, she haunts Morse and his henchmen as they hunt their escaping kidnapped journalists. Matt Engle directs beautiful hide-and-go-seek chases with flashlights and lighters taking the place of stage lights. Engle sets up keen suspense as many characters’ stories weave in and out of the main plot. He also has good writing to thank for that edge, by Colin Milroy (also playing the lead). Milroy’s 75 minute work brings a large story to life quickly and cleverly, while including decent subplots and funny characters. While sustaining its dramatic edge, ‘Gray Girl’ brings out some good laughs along with its jolting gasps.
While our encounters in live theater can be hit and miss, it’s so wonderful to applaud at the curtain call and mean it. Not that that is rare, just that it is wonderful, and Factory Theater hits the nail on the head in entertaining its audience with this new work. Prepare to be spooked.
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THE GRAY GIRL
Through December 17, 2011
Tickets $15-20, available at thefactorytheater.com
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