Chicago Theatre Review
Spartan’s ‘Bright Room’ Well Performed, but Lacks Cohesion
Spartan Theatre Company – A Bright Room Called Day
Spartan Theatre Company, the wonderful minimalist operation who’s searing staging of “Closer” was one of my favorite theatrical experiences of the summer, returns to the stage with Tony Kushner’s “A Bright Room Called Day,” and though the staging features all of Spartan’s strengths, it ultimately fails to come together at the end.
Set in early 1930s Germany, “Bright Room” takes place entirely in the Berlin apartment of Agnes Eggling (played by the charming Amanda de la Guardia), an aspiring actress who hosts several of her fellow artistic (and politically radical) friends at her shabby abode, where they discuss life, politics, and the radical changes unfurling on the streets of Berlin, as Hitler and the Nazis slowly take power. Every so often, the action jumps forward 50 years to the same the apartment, which is then the domain of an anarchist/conspiracy theorist (played by Jaci Kleinfeld), who remarks in a somewhat grating fashion on the political state of America in the early 80s as Reagan began his presidency.
All throughout the play, Kushner weaves an elaborate web of politics, artistic aspirations, and spirituality, cutting to the heart of social change with eloquence and delicacy. And as was the case with “Closer,” Spartan’s cast of actors (particularly Andy Monson in a double-role and the wonderful David Guiden) are more than up to the task, and they are complemented subtly by Kenton Gott’s lighting designs andTim Bickel’s sounds.
Yet, unlike “Closer,” “Bright Room” never quite gels. Individually, the play works wonderfully, but as the lights dim and the play concludes, we’re left without the overarching portrait of pre-Hitler Germany that we wish we had, and are instead left with a scattered, incomplete sketch.
Historical fiction, though, is a tricky genre to pull off, and Spartan is to be commended for its bold and original attempt.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented Nov. 7 – Nov. 23 at Chemically Imbalanced Theater, 1422 W Irving Park, Chicago, IL 60613
Tickets are available by visiting http://brightroom.brownpapertickets.com.
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.