Sideshow Theatre’s production of “Chalk”, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror story, doesn’t quite measure up to its premise. The story starts out well, the horror builds, and builds, but just when the viewer is primed to shriek at the really scary parts, it ends with a whimper. Although the acting was superb, “Chalk” just didn’t freak me out, and it should have. I give it 2 ½ Spotlights.
Apparently, it’s the end of the world as we know it. Some kind of monsters /demons (it never really specifies) have eaten all the people. Well, maybe not actually bite and eat, more like temporarily move in to a body, eat all of their memories, and move on.
Maggie (Kathleen Akerley) is the only survivor. She only had time to grab a few supplies before running to hide in her shed/garage. She grabbed some Pop Tarts, because they don’t spoil, some bottles of water, a radio, which is only picking up is static, and a New Age book of spells that belonged to her daughter. Fortunately for her, her daughter was into gymnastics, so there was a sack of loose chalk in the shed. Apparently, chalk is harmful to a monster’s health, so when they came for her, she was able to jump into a chalk circle she traced on the floor.
After Maggie stayed in the circle for at least a week, someone tries to sneak in. One of the monsters, occupying the body of her daughter, Cora (Nina O’Keefe), went out looking for food. She’s brought back a few cans and jars – applesauce, peas and corn, to name a few – which she proceeds to rip open and eat with her fingers. Even while her hands full of applesauce are in her mouth, she continues to taunt Maggie.
The tension builds as Maggie and the monster hurl insults and accusations at each other. My friend Nancy said it was like watching “The Exorcist” on steroids. There was even a truly disgusting barf scene, without the visuals, thank goodness. The monster got more and more angry and irrational, Maggie more defiant, even taunting Cora with Pop Tarts, a favorite, and forbidden, food from childhood. Maggie even tried some ineffectual spells from the New Age book. Spoiler Alert!! I expected a scary ending, what I got was a whimper!
“Chalk” runs through June 28th in the Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30; Sunday at 3:00. Running time is 65 minutes, no intermission. Tickets range from $20-$30. Valet parking is available or there is free parking in the Lincoln Garage (formerly the Children’s Memorial garage) two blocks south of Victory Gardens. FYI (773) 871-3000 or www.victorygardens.org.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Chalk”