Chicago Theatre Review

Chicago Theatre Review

Packing for the End of the World

July 5, 2013 Reviews Comments Off on Packing for the End of the World

Sideshow Theatre Company’s The Burden of Not Having a Tail

BurdenTail-1If the end of the world hits there is no need to fear, go see The Burden of Not Having A Tail to learn how to prep. In this one woman show, your bunker host tells you everything from what food to pack, how to say goodbye to loved ones, and the dangers of scented soap. The tips are equally as helpful if you’re hiding from emotional trauma as well.

Karie Miller is the sole performer in this production about how she is currently making life work without connections to the exterior world. The set looks like a cross between a child’s reading room and your mother’s pantry, except covered entirely in plastic wrap. Miller has an appropriately neurotic, and crazed glint in her eyes for the part, but does get tiresome. Bleeding through the cracks is the story of a woman who is grieving the loss of her infant daughter. And this history really does seep through the packing tutorial. Miller will be in the middle of explaining why scented soap is bad for you (I won’t spoil the surprise), and will trail off on a tangent about using scented soap on her daughter.  She will get very quite and you’ll wonder what is going on, then she’ll look at you and realize you’re still watching her so to break the tension she’ll shout ‘GAMES!’.  And then she discussed how to pass the time in a bunker.

If you can’t tell, this show is difficult to connect with at times.  At just over an hour, the performance isn’t very long, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be tighter. The jokes and the messages tend to drag on past their point, and the audience participation aspect feels very forced.  A woman from the audience spent more than half the show quietly sitting on the stage, to the point that I forget she was there.  And for some unclear reason, objects fall from the walls and ceiling suddenly throughout the performance. I’m not sure if this was symbolic of the character’s life being less controlled than she says it is, or to make sure the audience doesn’t zone out.

Don’t get me wrong, there were things I really enjoyed about this production. I loved the pace at which Miller’s back story was revealed.  It started as occasional mentions of her late daughter, or her husband Rick and the other people who have left her life.  But by the end, this is very much about the character finally facing her guilt over her daughter’s death.  I felt for her, and some very poignant remarks were said about the nature of grief.

Miller has some amazingly touching moments, but feels a bit young for some of the heavy subjects dealt with, perhaps more emotionally than in her age.  The play was jam packed with morbid humor, and awkward silences.  The artsy direction of the production felt forced from time to time, making the small audience feel all the more present in the space.

I found my evening of the absurd entertaining, but I don’t think this production is for everyone. If you don’t like it when the actors stare back at you in a show, or you don’t think bird flu is something to laugh about, this is perhaps not the play for you. If you are interested in the emotional journey of a damaged woman with the occasional quip and slight overtones of how faith plays into that struggle, then rush down to The Chicago Dramatists and get a ticket now!

Somewhat Recommended

Reviewed by Clare Kosinski

Sideshow Theatre Company’s The Burden of Not Having a Tail

Presented June 29 – August 4 by Chicago Dramatists, 1105 West Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL.

Tickets are available by visiting

Additional information about this and other area productions may be found at






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