Chicago Theatre Review
A Ticket to Ride
Hellcab – Profiles Theatre
Will Kern’s annual favorite returns for another road trip through the Second City this holiday season. Set during an exhausting, 14-hour shift on a bitterly cold Christmas Eve, an unnamed cabbie resorts to prayer and incantations trying to once more coax his beat up Ford taxicab to life. His purpose is simply another day cruising the streets of Chicago looking for fares. The car’s reluctance to start up should be an omen for the driver. Almost without exception, the 33 customers he picks up and delivers to their destinations represent the strangest and most bizarre, as well as the most noble and heartbreaking citizens, of this city.
The 80-minute production, played without interruption, is comprised of a series of short scenes or episodes, some lasting only a minute or two while others go on a bit longer. Experiencing a day in the cab driver’s life through his rear-view mirror creates audience empathy for this decent, hard-working Everyman. Simply trying to earn a living, the driver often unwittingly transforms from simple chauffeur to neutral confidant, sounding board and witness to an array of unbelievable circumstances and personal problems instigated by his unusually eccentric passengers. Many are funny, some are shocking and even frightening, while a few situations touch the heart with their poignancy. The evening includes, among many others, a trio of intensely hyperactive drug addicts looking to score their next hit; an sharp-tongued pregnant woman and her husband about to deliver in the backseat of the cab; a morose, drunken Salvation Army Santa on his way to work; a pathetic victim of date rape; a sexually-aroused couple who simply can’t wait to reach their hotel; an abused cross-dresser; and a young family attempting to bring the driver to Jesus.
Two of the scenes particularly stand out among the others. In one, a young man, who at first seems to be genuinely nice, while with his date, becomes a despicably malignant predator after the sweet, naive girl leaves the cab. In another scene an architect, alone and working late, heads to the Montrose Diner for some take-out and ends up making an unexpected connection with the cabbie.
Profiles Theatre, which is known for its ensemble-driven plays, has another winner with the return of Will Kern’s Chicago-based script. Prompted by the playwright’s own experiences as a cab driver, director Eric Burgher drives this entertainment on its way like a finely-tuned sports car, or a well-rehearsed improv skit. Along with a terrific ensemble, award-winning actor Richard Cotovsky brings pathos and honest realism to his earnest cabbie, creating the glue that connects his 33 exceptional fares to himself. This is a uniquely different kind of show that guarantees to elicit laughter, a few emotional sniffles and ultimately put a true Chicago spin on the holidays.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented November 13-January 11 by Profiles Theatre on their main stage, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago.
Tickets are available by calling the box office at 773-549-1815 or by going to www.profilestheatre.org.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.