Recommended *** When one thinks of “origami, the art of folding paper in just the right artistic way to create a work of art, itself, unless, you are into the art, it just passes us by. In Rajiv Joseph’s “Animals Out of Paper”, now being presented at Theater Wit as part of Shattered Globe Theatre’s 25th anniversary season, we see how this art form connects and or disconnects three lonely souls with deep personal troubles during a solid one hour and forty minutes of story-telling (no intermission). There are three characters in this story. Well, there are three that we meet and learn about. There are few others that are referred to as part of the story that help us to see things about the three we get to know.
The main character of this story is a noted origami artist, Ilana (Cortney McKenna), who it seems has hit the lowest point in her life as the story begins. Her husband has left her, she has lost her beloved pet dog, has no true future financially, and is living in her studio with no phone and just the barest of essentials. The doorbell rings and after several intercom discussions, she buzzes up her visitor, Andy, a high school teacher who is treasurer of an association of and for origami artists and lovers of the art. Andy (well played by Joseph Wiens, who adds a sharp comic touch to this character) is smitten with Ilana and opens up to her about his love of the art form and those who are good at it. It turns out, he has a student who is a natural in paper folding for art, and feels if his hero would tutor and mentor his student, he would change his life and become a better person.
As it turns out, this East Indian student who comes across as a “Black” hip-hopper, is a natural and has created works that are amazing. Ilana has not folded any paper since her husband left her and her dog disappeared. Suresh ( deftly handled by Awate Serequeberhan) has lost his mother due to an auto accident and is responsible for both his father and sister on a day-to-day basis. He spends a great deal of time at the studio, organizing and cleaning (against the wishes of his mentor). Andy, of course has fallen deeply in love with Ilana. Ilana, by the way has learned a great deal about Andy through his special book that he left behind on his initial visit ( and she read, cover to cover). He calls it his Blessings Book and all the good things that have taken place in his life are listed by number- thousands and thousands, including his love and desire for Ilana!
Smoothly directed by Devon de Mayo on a set that has been designed by Grant Sabin that allows us to be in her studio, a restaurant and a hotel room with great ease. David Antonio Reed’s props are superb! A lot of labor of love had to go into this and Christine Edison’s origami work is fantastic. The original music by Stephen Gawrit who also did the sound, is sheer perfection to the scenes we are watching as well as the interludes between. Each of these characters is flawed in one way or another and each, with the help of the others does learn a great deal about themselves along the way. There are few places where I was uncomfortable with the relationships that we saw develop and how abruptly they changed course, in some cases, without reason (at least for me).
I will not spoil the action for you by talking about the particular spots as I think many people will see things on a different level, depending on their own circumstances in life. I did think that some of the premise of the story was not on track and that circumstances that arise would not or could not happen as depicted. However, that being said, I did find the show warm, funny in spots, and very emotional in others. While I liked Llana in the middle of the story, that changed for me. While I thought Suresh was too brash in his first appearance, I learned to like him, almost caring for him, but later, he also left me hanging. The most sympathetic of the characters is Andy, the goofy, love-striken math teacher who is the loneliest member of the trio and who despite having the warmest of hearts and the best of intentions truly left me cold at the end.
“Animals Out of Paper” will continue at Theater Wit located at 1229 West Belmont (theater 3) thru February 27th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets are open seating and $33 each ( a decent price for theater of this quality). Under 30? $20, students , $15 , Seniors $27 and industry, on Thursdays $15
To order and reserve your seats call 773-975-8150 or visit www.theaterwit.org
Parking at Coopers is available as is street parking ( some metered, some not) and of course, Valet parking is always available. For more info on the 25th year of Shattered Globe, visit www.shatteredglobe.org
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Animals Out of Paper”