Chicago Theatre Review
Griffin’s ‘Pocatello’ a First-Rate, Sincere Production
There are not enough superlatives to complement Griffin Theatre’s production of “Pocatello,” a play of masterful subtlety and sincerity.
Set in the slowly dying Idaho town of Pocatello, the play follows a week in the life of Eddie (beautifully played by Michael McKeough), a native to the town who manages a chain Italian restaurant that – like nearly all the businesses and people in the town – is on the verge of collapse, with Wal-Marts, Payless Shoes, and other corporate chains eager to fill the void. Through well-meaning (but ultimately misguided) efforts, Eddie attempts to salvage both his business and the spirit of his town, which his friends and family are all too willing to let go.
The story of “Pocatello” is hardly unique to Idaho, and I found nearly all the characters of the play instantly relatable: Eddie’s brother Nick, who fled the town and suppresses its painful past; Eddie’s lifelong friend Troy, who after losing his job at the local paper mill took a job waitering at Eddie’s restaurant…and has done so for eight years; and Becky, an angry, whip-smart teen who struggles to balance the world’s injustices with the people of those around her.
It all makes for a grim, heartbreaking world, but thanks to the spot-on direction from Griffin ensemble member Jonathan Berry and his pitch-perfect cast, “Pocatello” never becomes overwhelming; instead, it becomes an true, tragicomic look at America in the 21st century, one that is staged and performed with such authenticity that you can practically smell the breadsticks baking in the kitchen. There are towns like Pocatello all across America – a drive down the Eisenhower confirms this – and Griffin is to be applauded for keeping that truth present with its audience.
Reviewed by Peter Ricci
Presented through Dec. 13 by Griffin Theatre, performed at Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice Ave, Chicago
Tickets are available by calling 866-811-4111 or by visiting www.griffintheatre.com
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.