Chicago Theatre Review
Gift Shows its Cutting Edge Side
ABSOLUTE HELL By Frank Meccia
The Gift Theatre located in Jefferson Park has the U.S. Premiere of Rodney Ackland’s Absolute Hell.The Gift Theatre has an audience capacity of about 35. In this small theatre they had a cast of 21 that made use of every inch of space without seeming over crowded. This play was first produced in London in 1952 and was called The Pink Room, or The Escapists and was a total flop. One reason was in England the Lord Chamberlain censored and approved all scripts. And with a story line that contains misfits, alcoholics, gay men, bohemians you can see why it was censored. Ackland re-wrote the script in 1988 at the age of 80. The National Theatre produced the play in 1995.
The story takes place one month after WWII has ended. England is going through a major change, And you are welcomed to the members only club “La Vie En Rose” and here is where the cast of losers, soldiers, dreamers, artists and lovers meet. Lynda Newton plays Christine Foskett the always drunk owner and need to be loved women. She plays the role perfectly. Michael Thornton plays Hugh Marriner the artist, and dreamer who can’t except that he is always cheating on his lover Nigel played by Dylan Stuckey. The show contains all the elements of an opera, comedy and tragedy with lust, betrayal, envy hope and destruction. Sheldon Patinkin as the director did an excellent job bringing that forward, my only complaint it could have been done in 2hours and 15min, not 3 and a half hours.
I do recommend this show, The Gift Theatre has shown that it can take cutting edge shows and work them well for the small theatre. Absolute Hell will run till April 29.