Highly Recommended ***** The first thing that struck me upon entering the house of the Chopin Theatre after waiting in the elegant lobby, which is always delightful, is just how elaborate the set (Sarah Watkins) and properties (Angela Campos) were. Everything we would expect to find in a modern house is here: a kitchen, a living room, an upstairs bedroom so that one gets the sense of a large and spacious home where more than one thing would thing would likely be occurring. And more than one thing certainly does in InFUSION Theatre’s production of Crystall Skillman’s new piece “Another Kind of Love: a punk rock play” as three sisters are unwilling united on the 25th anniversary of their mother, Melanie Price: a rock legend’s, suicide, amidst rumors that they are re-forming their punk rock band, “the Dark Hearts,” which became famous when they came-of-age after their mother’s death.
But they haven’t seen each other in fifteen years, and have to re-form their family first. There is Tanya (Courtney Jones): who has stayed behind to raise her daughter Max (Alison Hixson), Kit (Annie Prichard): who has remained famous as a punk rock singer in her own right and who is idolized by her niece who has never met her, and Collin (Amber Kelly): who has worked as a sort of independently viable “non-equity” musician, opening for other bands. Tanya wants a normal life for Max, free from the shame that has come from the legacy of their mother’s death, and the sisters own, sometimes public, exploits with drugs and sex, and their struggles with their mother’s suicide, addiction, and mental illness. As a result, Max is given free rein to swear with them (which they do a lot), have sex, and drink all the while trying to discover who she is and find her own poetic voice to write music, even while her mother insists that she have a normal life, maintain a 3.8 GPA, and eventually go to college and not on tour.
Max, on the other hand, has idolized to various degrees Melanie and her Aunt Kit, who she has never met at the play’s opening, but who unexpectedly shows up, along with Collin, at her invitation. Jones, Prichard, and Kelly are utterly convincing as sisters, capturing the paradox of the alienation and intensity of their hostility and estrangement, and their intimacy and affection. The sort of complicated inter-personal dynamics that can only come from have growing up together, as sisters then bandmates, and surviving one of the most traumatic events imaginable: the public suicide of their, emotionally distant (it is revealed), and famous mother. But the maternal emotional distance of her Grandmother is the least of the family secrets these sisters have kept from Max and each other, and they quickly come out over the course of twenty four hours, provoking a series of crisis that focus largely Max’s identity and future.
What the dialogue lacks in lyricism, it makes up for in intensity (this is a play about punk rock, after all) and even as she turns on Kit in the wake of the most stunning of the familial revelations, Max complains, “Every morning, I get up and pray I’ll be you, but I only ever end up hurting everyone I love.” It is her mother who has to half-scold half-reassure her, “You are not Melanie [or Kit], you’re Max.” Through all of this, Hixson more than holds her own against her older colleagues, simultaneously capturing innocence, sexuality, intelligence, and self-deception all the while successfully maintaining the persona and uncertainty of a teenage girl struggling to form an identity.
There are two men in the play: Nate (Tyler Young) who has a complex relationship with his “best friend” Max which is marked by affection (which is clearly reciprocated) and a fierce loyalty to her, but also a willingness, almost eagerness, to be used by her for sex and promotion. His earnestness is foiled by the pretentious, idiotic, and morally bankrupt, Roger (Brady Johnson): Collin’s boyfriend, a one-hit wonder, and producer with a phony British accent. While they are less powerful entities than the women who drive the show and of whom they stand in awe (Nate avowedly; Roger surreptitiously, perhaps even only on an unconscious level—although it has to be said that Johnson’s Roger borders so much on caricature that it has hard to imagine him having an unconscious). Ultimately, he and Nate literally come to blows over the role each will take in these women’s lives. That said, if Johnson and Young turn in less powerful performances, their characters’ are likewise less powerful forces than the women and Young more than captures the awe he feels around them and handles the last scene exceptionally well.
The blocking (Mitch Golob) is skilled, intense, and disarmingly gorgeous: capturing alternating moods of excitement (Max’s hope of a “Dark Hearts” reunion that will include her) and disaster, at the revelation of family secrets, possible overdoses, and the possibility of violence and looming threat of yet another abandonment (which turns out to be a theme in this family). The lighting (Claire Chrzan and Rachel Sypniewski) convincingly creates domestic and exterior spaces while taking turns the theatrical when appropriate. I don’t like punk rock so I’m not really able to evaluate the musical score (Heidi Rodewald) although it is impressive that almost every actor plays an instrument on stage, and it sounds just as jarring and professional as the punk rock one hears on the radio.
InFUsion Theatre Company’s production of Crystal Skillman’s “Another Kind of Love” plays at the Chopin Theatre located at 1543 W. Division Ave. through June 14 with performances Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 3 pm. Regular Tickets are $28. Senior Tickets are $20. Student and Industry Tickets (Thursdays and Sundays only) are $15. They can are on sale now at wwwInfusionThetare.com.
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