Chicago Theatre Review
Some Secrets Run Deep
Scotland Road – BoHo Theatre
The crew of a modern-day Scandinavian fishing boat discovers a beautiful young woman clinging to an iceberg in the middle of the frigid Atlantic Ocean. She’s dressed in early 1900’s fashion and seems dazed and confused. When rescued, the only word she utters is, “Titanic.”
With this opening scene, Charles Riffenburg’s excellent production of prolific playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s very first first play takes hold of the audience and never lets go until the final curtain. Hatcher, who’s written such diverse original dramas as “Ten Chimneys” and “A Picasso,” as well as dramatic adaptations of literary classics, like “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,” is also the author of a number of film screenplays, as well. This, Mr. Hatcher’s first play, written in 1993, is a well-written, tense thriller with a possible supernatural element that holds the playgoer throughout.
Too many details can’t be related without giving away the enjoyment of suspense and mystery. Suffice it to say that The Woman is brought to a makeshift hospital facility where she’s treated and cared for by Dr. Halbrech and a small staff of deaf/mute attendants. While there a young man named John confronts the young lady, questioning her and fiercely badgering her with accusations, in his quest to determine the woman’s authenticity. He’s met, however, only with silence…until John makes an admission that suddenly sets the woman’s voice free.
Riffenburg’s taut, finely-paced production is set within Eric Luchen’s simple, stark, all-white room. The colorless expanse is broken only by two white doors and a lighting fixture. Yet, as the play progresses, the audience gradually becomes aware of a mysterious crack appearing on opposite sides of the room. It eerily grows and spreads across the set as the drama intensifies. Kudos to John Jacobsen for managing to create illumination magic within the tiny Heartland Studio, and Joshua Wentz adds to the drama with his sound and original musical design.
Jesse Dornan, whose theatre resume resounds with credits from all over Chicago, is commanding and intense as John. He drives his character’s passionate motivation with a personal need for solving the inexplicable mystery behind this young woman. Skyler Schrempp is properly composed and justly enigmatical as The Woman. Conveying so much without words, using mere looks and gestures, the lovely Ms. Schrempp is simply captivating in this challenging role. Stephanie Sullivan and Janet Magnuson do well in their roles as Dr. Halbrech and, Titanic survivor, Miss Kittle. Each actress brings secrets of her own to these characters, adding even more inscrutability and secrecy to this Titanic twister.
Much as BoHo’s excellent, exciting “Veronica’s Room” captivated audiences some seasons ago, Charles Riffenburg’s stunning, well-paced production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s perplexing thriller does so once again. Making great use of the intimate, limited space in the Heartland Studio, this production lays everything directly in the laps of its audience. Just as The Woman is confined and forced to face John’s interrogation, so is the theatergoer. The mystery is relentless; the production intense. There’s no escape.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented May 16-June 14 by BoHo Theatre at the Heartland Studio Theatre, 7016 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago.
Tickets are available by calling 866-811-4111 or by going to www.BoHoTheatre.com.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.