Somewhat Recommended ** There are times when it is difficult to put the stars on a review. In the case of the World Premiere of Dan LeFranc’s “Bruise Easy” now on the stage at American Theater Company, I want to say this is the case. The actors were solid and terrific! Kelly O’Sullivan as Tess is powerful and beautiful. Matt Farabee as Alec, her younger brother is also well played. It is the script that I found lacking and no matter how strong the direction (Joanie Schultz) is or the acting, in the end it is the over all picture that leaves its imprint on the viewer.
The story is about an estranged family. Let me say, a dysfunctional family with a capital D. We never meet the mother and the father (thank God), but we do learn all about them from the two actors, brother and sister who bring us all the gory details of their dysfunctional lives , past and present (and possibly future). The entire play takes place in the driveway of the family home in California. This is the home that this brother and sister grew up in. At least until the day that their father left their mother and took Tess with. Turns out he has had several other relationships and their mother is not there to greet the kids who she has asked to come see her. This is never explained, by the way. Why are the kids on the driveway? Where is their mother?
This play, which runs about 75 minutes with no intermission, is very taut with the pressures of letting us into the lives of these people. To assist us in staying with the story, there is a “geek chorus” which is called the “chorus of neighborhood kids” (Matt Gomez Hidaka, Sandy Nguyen, Michael Sandoval, Jenna Makkawy, Leah Shiffman and Dante Guinazzo). Periodicly they are brought on stage to keep us in the story that we are being told by LeFranc. They are cute and have been directed to reach perfection in their unison chants. They also do some other things to move the storyline which I cannot divulge as it might give away where the story goes.
This brother and sister have major problems. They have not spoken or seen each other in a long time, so a major part of the story is getting hem to revisit some of the past they shared and to learn about the portion of their lives they have missed. They talk about sex, their likes and dislikes, their relationships with others and their parents. They even offer to help each other with the things they are lacking in their own lives and not to spoil anything, there are some insane and violent scenes as well as some special love scenes in this play that have no true bearing on the outcomes. In fact, that may be the biggest problem with the play- the outcome.
While the chorus kind of fills us in on the house they lived in and what happens after they leave, I found that to be unsatisfying and certainly not what I am used to expecting from American Theater Company. Over the years, the productions they have brought to their stages have been powerful and fulfilling. This one misses the boat. I wanted to know more! I wanted to know who their father and mother were and the relationships they had (or did not have). If the play covers several days- how could they have remained living on the driveway without someone calling the police? Where did the groceries come from? The booze? How did they relieve themselves? There were pictures on Alec’s camera- how did they get there? and what were they?
I found this play filled with holes and questions left unanswered. Again, the acting was superb, the direction smooth as silk, the lighting and projections(Lee Keenan) and sound (Thomas Dixon) along with the props (Archer Curry) well done. The fight choreography (Dave Gonzalez did one heck of a job on this fight scene-worth the price of the ticket just for this scene) and the overall scenic design (Chelsea M. Warren, or was it Danley Garage?) all up the expected standards of ATC- too bad the script could not make the same trip.
“Bruise Easy” will continue at American Theater Company located at 1909 West Byron Street (at Lincoln Avenue) in Chicago thru February 14th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
Tickets range from $43-$48 and are available by calling 773-409-4125 or online at www.atcweb.org
Parking is available on the street- some metered, some not and of course public transportation makes it easy to get there.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Bruise Easy”