Chicago Theatre Review
Recovery and Love on the Rocks
No More Sad Things – Sideshow Theatre Company
There are so many love stories but playwright Hansol Jung’s unconventional, almost dreamlike play is rather unique. Her tale sparkles with unexpected contemporary dialogue and situations while spinning a fanciful, surreal story about recovery and the romance between a spunky, young Midwestern woman and a good-looking teenage surfer. The play takes liberties with time and space, jumping back and forth, between Ohio and Maui, from the beach to a jetliner and up to the top of the black cliffs, overlooking the ocean. Within this framework Ms. Jung weaves a spell of fantasy and timelessness.
Director Elly Green has staged her 85-minute one-act with a firm hand, allowing the story to easily toss and twist, reversing and U-turning between the past and the present. Perky, pretty Katy Carolina Collins plays Jessiee, a young woman desperate for escape. She’s a lonely woman who hasn’t had the best track record in relationships. She can’t face her mother’s next surgery, but still believes deep down in love. On a whim, she boards a plane heading for the Hawaiian Islands, the furthest destination she can imagine from her conservative, confining home in Ohio. There she chances to meet Kahekili, a handsome, charismatic young man who spends his days and nights on the sandy beaches, earning a few bucks diving for tourists from the rocky precipice high above the ocean. He’s played with some success by George Infantado. Stifling a million emotions and giving in to her buried passion, Jessiee and her young man make love on the beach. Then she discovers some startling information about Kahekili that she hadn’t expected. The play is narrated by the singing and ukulele-strumming Narciso Lobo as The Guidebook, also playing Jessiee’s first stargazing high school boyfriend. Mr. Lobo also sings while providing his own accompaniment, as well.
The trajectory of Ms. Jung’s play is unexpected, yet dreamy. Much of the story almost has the feel of a fable or a folk tale. The elements that ground it in today’s world are her modern characters, their frank conversations, frequently dropping of the F-bomb, as well as a number of contemporary plot devices. William Boles’ beautiful, dreamlike set is a rhapsody in blue, a series of curved surfaces that suggest the moon, the deck of a boat and the land- and seascape of the island. The production is beautifully lit by Diane D. Fairchild, with a lovely sound design by Christopher M. LaPorte.
The production is pleasant and spins an intriguing tale, but it really doesn’t grab you. Ms. Collins’ Jessiee is the best part of this premier, with her winsomeness and humorous gullibility combined with her tart candor. Multitalented Mr. Lobo understands his role is primarily as a storyteller and occasional participant, carefully avoiding the urge to steal focus from his two co-stars. Mr. Infantado is sweet and charming as Kahekili, but he’s sometimes difficult to understand and often throws away his best lines. With a few more performances under his belt, this problem should be corrected.
Sideshow Theatre offers a nice alternative to the onslaught of holiday-themed productions happening all over Chicago. This homey love story has all the elements of a folktale, while exploring the various definitions of the word, “recovery.” While Hansol Jung’s play isn’t groundbreaking or earth-shattering, there’s a certain novel quality, and it’s certainly entertaining and filled with love. As directed by Elly Green, this production offers a handful of interesting characters, a number of unexpected plot elements and laughs as well as several sincere moments of awe.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented November 15-December 20 by Sideshow Theatre Company at the Richard Christiansen Theater at Victory Gardens’ Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.
Tickets are available in person or by calling the box office at 773-871-3000 or by going to www.victorygardens.org.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.