Chicago Theatre Review
A Surreal Bore at Mary-Arrchie
Hellish Half-Light – Mary Arrchie
Mary-Arrchie’s production of “Crime and Punishment” was among the riveting productions that I saw in the spring 2014 theater season, a razor-sharp adaptation that used the theatre’s minimalist staging to expert effect.
Sadly, Mary-Arrchie misses the mark with “Hellish Half-Light,” a staging of of six short plays by the legendary (if vastly overrated) Samuel Beckett, he of the post-modern surrealist bend.
Of course, little of that blame can be assigned to Mary-Arrchie’s production or the show’s cast. All the actors, particularly Stephen Walker, are quite committed to Beckett’s various absurdities, and Director Jennifer Markowitz, Stage Managers Andrew C. Donnelly and Eric Turner, and especially Light Designer Tyler Garlock create haunting, moving set pieces that complement the action well.
No, the problem is ultimately with Mr. Beckett, whose works have not aged well – particularly when they’re pulled outside of the academic, stuffy, suffocating environment in which they were created. Equal parts pretentious and uninteresting, Beckett’s motives are quite plain – he’s trying, via character, action, and structure, to upend the traditional structures of theater – yet, he never succeeds in producing anything half as moving as Raven Theatre’s current staging of “Men Should Weep,” or half as witty and enjoyable as Oak Park Festival Theatre’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” True, those are traditionally structured plays with acts, characters, and rising dramatic structures, yet they are infinitely more pleasing than the haughty displays Beckett composed.
A drama professor once told me that Beckett’s work was little more than “intellectual masturbation,” and after experiencing a full evening of the man’s work at Mary-Arrchie, it’s a difficult statement to resist.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented July 19 – Sept. 6 at Mary-Arrchie Theatre, 735 W Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60613
Tickets are available by calling (773) 871-0442 or by visiting http://www.ticketweb.com/snl/EventListings.action?pl=matc&orgId=11594&REFID=homepage.
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.