Chicago Theatre Review
Stage Left’s ‘What of the Night?’ a brave, uneven production
What of the Night – Stage Left Theatre
Stage Left Theatre’s production of María Irene Fornés’ “What of the Night?” is that most unfortunate of theatrical events – a production with great passion and commitment, but one with lackluster material.
A highly metaphorical exploration of poverty in America, “What of the Night?” is a long evening of theater. Spanning four acts across three hours, the play follows a family from the Great Depression into the 1980s, with each act focusing on a different member of the family. The narrative is not a pretty one. From prostitution to thievery to corporate greed, Fornés casts a very broad net in her condemnation of the American system.
And that is the show’s primary problem. Rather than develop her characters and allow us to connect with the nuances of their desperate lives (Griffin Theatre’s outstanding production of “Pocatello” leaps to mind), we’re instead given grand, overheated scenes that are high on passion but severely lacking in subtlety. It’s one thing, for instance, to write a play that explores capitalism’s excesses and its revolting manner of exploiting humanity, but it’s just too obvious for a corporate baron to literally rape another man who is asking him for a favor, and then utter “You can see how business is done around here.”
And it’s all a shame, because there is obvious talent behind this production. Kathryn Acosta (who was outstanding in Stage Left’s earlier production of “The Bottle Tree”), newcomer Dionne Addai, and Allyce Torres make for very compelling leads; Eleanor Kahn’s scenic design is suitably gloomy and dire; and Carlos Murillo’s direction keeps the action moving briskly. It’s all in service, though, of a dated, obvious vision, one that does not compare favorably to other shows on the Chicago stage.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented through Feb. 12 by Stage Left Theatre Company, staged at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont
Tickets are available by calling 773-883-8830 or by visiting www.stagelefttheatre.com.
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.