Chicago Theatre Review
Chalk – Sideshow Theatre Company
This strange sci-fi apocalyptic piece, now playing at the Victory Gardens Theater, is at its heart, a story of trust and reconciliation. The end of days is here. Resources, once familiar, are no longer available. As the audience arrives, a single person in a dilapidated home sits quietly. She is waiting for what will be an intruder who at first seems familiar, but she knows something is not quite right.
The person waiting in a chalk circle is Maggie. It is apparent that she has made a home for herself within the chalk circle. She moves within its boundaries, reading, stretching, eating. Why is she waiting? What is she waiting for?
A visitor enters her space. A surprise? The woman is Cora. She seems familiar and distant at the same time. Cora is coarse and manic, unrelenting in her questions and taunts.
After gutting several cans of long expired food, Cora transforms into an uncomfortable beast. Gesticulating with her gastronomical distress, another personality begins to emerge. Cora may look like Maggie’s daughter, but we discover, deep inside, she is not. Cora seems to want more from her mother, her memories, her very soul, but because of the chalk circle she cannot access what she needs. She screams and coaxed her mother to give up her stories, give up herself to her.
We realize the person inside Cora is of an alien nature. This alien has taken Cora as a host, but Maggie will not bring herself to see her daughter lost. She must keeping hoping that her daughter is still inside her broken body – somewhere. The audience is witness to the struggle. I struggled a bit while witnessing. The premise seemed confusing at times, and while the actresses did their best to move through this awkward script.
Kathleen Akerley plays mother Maggie with confidence and chill. Although we understand her struggle throughout this piece, she played her situation far more calmly than I thought warranted. In contrast, Nina O’Keefe plays the daughter with manic abandon. These roles are not easy to pin down. Sometimes it felt tedious as these two journeys fought for the attention of the audience.
Playwright Walt McGough keeps things moving, but the play gets confusing for the audience as to even “why” are they even there? I get the weird alien references and the mother/daughter connection, but the payoff was disappointing.
The design team excelled beginning with a great set (Megan Truscott) that is real and grungy. The lighting (Eric Van Tassell) gave the audience that other worldly feel and the sound design (Michael Huey) was memorable as well. The excellent props (Mealah Heidenreich)were deceptively simple, but a lot going on all over the place.
Chalk is a journey to the future, that takes a slice from one slightly familiar time through one slightly familiar relationship.
Reviewed by Lazlo Collins
Chalk runs through June 28th at the Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. For tickets go to www.victorygardens.org or call 773-871-3000
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by going towww.theatreinchicago.com.