Recommended ***The Premise: This one-man murder mystery follows down-and-out English photographer, Derek Eveleigh through the underbelly of 1950s London. He’s hired by an unknown client to photograph a young black woman in Notting Hill; he has doubts but the money’s too good to pass up. The first few weeks go smoothly, and Eveleigh begins to feel the beginnings of a creative renaissance. But on the third week, he witnesses the young woman’s traumatic murder. He spends the rest of the play obsessed with solving the mystery, taking him from his seedy studio to seedy nightclubs to seedy streets.
The Play: With a one-man show that has to navigate so much material, the burden of its success lies mostly with the actor. However, after seeing three solo shows during the Greenhouse Theater’s Solo Celebration series, the unique pitfalls of this format become increasingly clear. A solo text, more than multi-character pieces, must provide a clear path for the actor to follow and a sturdy skeleton to lean on. Otherwise, they end up spending the entire show lugging it along, exhausted.
In its first act, Bloodshot achieves this strong, propulsive rhythm, capturing Eveleigh, and the audience, in an inexorable web of characters and scenes and moods cleverly conjured out of nothing.
But this cleverness catches up with it in the second act. The play sets up so many shifts and turns that when they inevitably unravel, Eveleigh has to somehow become a plausible Sherlock Holmes, solving mysteries out of very little evidence, and this proves to be too high a hurdle to overcome.
The Production: Simon Slater, who originated the role in London, plays Eveleigh with a leering, comic darkness that’s instantly engaging. With a breakneck, compelling pace, and showing off an array of skills, he morphs between a raunchy Irish comic in an extended routine that is more disturbing than funny; an American jazz musician, wailing on a saxophone in real time; a Russian magician, pulling off a complicated bit involving razors; and a gruff London cop. But when the play falls apart in the second act, Slater loses his footing trying to pull off the implausible reveal, and his character stalls and sputters to an unsatisfying end.
The set is unfortunately sloppy and amateurish. The ground plan is too symmetrical with suggestive business on either side that ends up making the mostly-bare stage look cluttered. A round table with a white tablecloth sits center, forcing Slater to go in endless circles around the stage. The dynamic story would have benefitted from a imaginative use of the stage, perhaps diagonals or levels to enhance the mood and break up the monotony of center stage.
Ultimately the play was unable to overcome the many limitations of solo performance. Instead, it got tangled in its own machinations, leaving the actor stranded in the final scene, having said nothing.
Bloodshot plays at the Greenhouse Theater located at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue, through September 10 with performances:
matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:30PM.
Tickets range from $42-$48.Buy tickets online at greenhousetheater.org or call their box office at 773-404-7336.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Bloodshot”