Chicago Theatre Review
Brash and Bright – Limbo Makes You Uncomfortable
Savage in Limbo – The Poor Theatre
Imagine yourself at 32 years old.
Everyone in the audience who participates in the shared experience of Savage in Limbo will think this. Some who are younger might think, “I will NOT be a loser in a local bar talking about all my mistakes” or someone may think, “I WAS a loser at 32 talking in a bar and confronting some things and people I slept with or let down.”
Imagine yourself at 32 years old in a bar, with people you know and you yearn to change…
In this 80 minute, well acted, intense drama by John Patrick Shanley; the five actors transport the audience to a dive bar. A chatty dive bar. A dive bar of the mind. A dive bar where love and support are examined and torn apart.
You may remember John Patrick Shanley from Broadway hits like Doubt: A Parable (won a Tony) and screenplay from Moonstruck. (won an Oscar) His latest Tony was 2014’s Outside Mullinger.
We join the action, and the spirited dialogue, with central figure Denise Savage who is already analyzing her state of mind and making deals with all she encounters. She wants to change, needs to change, but doesn’t seem too concerned jumping from one opportunity to another. Poor Theatre Ensemble Member Abbey Smith delivers the lions share of the action. She looks within and where ever she may find a ray of hope to escape her mother and getting outside herself, and this bar. Her final breakdown moment is a solid acting moment from Ms. Smith. She moved among the difficult dialogue with ease. She reminded me of so many of the women I knew in the 80’s. I am not 32.
I really enjoyed Erika Haaland as Linda Rotunda. Decked out in her 80’s pencil skirt and shiny animal print blouse. She commands the bar the moment she arrives. Ms. Haaland takes a bite out of the script and spits out the wordy passages with ease. I loved her self assurances that you know are just a smokescreen for deeper wounds. She is just trying to get along and everyone is pissing her off. This includes her Monday night hit an run neighborhood stud, Tony Aronica.
Tony is over the top with his slicked back hair, leather pants and malenesss. Antonio Brunetti is on point as the self involved lover of woman, but specifically Linda – on Mondays only. They share not only themselves, but we find out they have three children together. Their hot sexual tension and searing snipes reveal two people desperately intertwined.
The last two characters holding up the rest of the story, or should I say holding up the bar, are patron April White and bartender Murk. They seldom leave their station and the confines of a strange symbiotic relationship. April seems to have never left the bar, and won’t be leaving anytime soon. Philena Gilmer portrayed the perfect inebriated patron. She is in, she is out, up, down and all over the place; all while placing some great one liners in the process. She is sweet and the patron you feel like you could help, or at least want to befriend to a better life.
Her moments of clarity seemed fueled and refueled by bartender Murk deftly played by Dan Toot. He loves her, but is stuck at the bar, with these people; all these awful 32 year old people. He must insist on order from his patrons who cross his path, He bellows, “You must have drink or you have to go!” He has a job to do. He continues through is contempt of his mundane existence.
Director Will Crouse keeps the action moving and the emotions high. Congrats, I think you got some great performances from your actors. They sounded and alive and in the moment.
This group of young men and woman are all searching for something that could be. They are ALL stuck in the present. Their searching brings up uncomfortable confessions and hopes for the future. As things are explored they will all stay the same. (perhaps maybe for one couple things will be different)
The acting is all superb and the pace is good; although the material can be tedious at times. As Hamlet says, “Words, words, words. Sometimes there are too many. This would not be my favorite material by Mr. Shanley.
Where were you, when you were 32? If you willing to think about that question bad or good, then this play is for you.
Reviewed by Lazlo Collins
Savage in Limbo presented by The Poor Theatre at Rivendell Theatre through July 17th. For tickets go to email@example.com or go to www.thepoortheatre.org for more information.
Additional information about this and other fine area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com