Chicago Theatre Review
‘Ameriville’ at Victory Gardens: Did it deliver?
By Devlyn Camp
The first production of new Artistic Director Chay Yew is quite a statement, as the work is somewhat of an indefinable genre. Ameriville, performed by Universes, is a kind of dramatic performance art, featuring music, poetry, stand-up comedy, and flamenco, among several other forms of entertainment. Like most jobs, the task of delivering a message from the stage can be done with many tools, and this dramamusicaldanceshow utilizes everything it can get its hands on. The four actors, three men and a woman, have more than enough tricks of their sleeves ranging from outrageous character voices to strong a capella numbers and high-powered footwork.
These talents are put to work explaining the difficult lives of natural disaster victims and the indirect results. Through several perspectives, some sad, some brilliantly funny, most arresting, families still suffering from Hurricane Katrina make their cases known and question God’s place and the government’s work in the years following the storm. On the raked stage, backed by projected newspapers and American statistics, the stand-alone scenes question whether the country will be prepared for more disasters.
While it is emotional and vocally impressive, there’s no way of skirting the problem with the theatrical work: plot. Every aspect of the production is fantastic, from acting to lighting to set design and back, except for the hole that “purpose” usually fills. Yes, it informs on Katrina. Yes, it implies the possibility that we, as a community, are not prepared to face another tragedy like the hurricane. But stepping out on Lincoln Avenue beneath the bright marquee, the audience has no thought on how this presentation changes them. There’s no redeemable result, as there is hardly a story. The emotions exist only for a moment while the lights are still down. Tone should be the result of a show that delivers an entertaining work – not a direction forced upon a production.
Victory Gardens Theater
Through February 26, 2012
Tickets $20-$50, available at victorygardens.org
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