Monday December 11th 2017

“Goodbye Cruel World”

It is not often that I attend a comedy where I do not laugh. I am pretty open to anything and in fact, many first -nighters know when I am in the audience, no matter the size of the theater. Strange Tree Group is a group of talented actors dedicated to creating intricate,intimate theatrical experience that reach out beyond the boundaries of traditional theater. They fear nothing! Their current production,”Goodbye Cruel World” an adaptation of Nicolai Erdman’s “The Suicide” by Robert Ross Parker, has many talented actors but the story is one that is not funny to most audience members. As often is the case on an opening night, members of the company and friends and family of those involved do laugh ( even when something is not funny), but I found that much of the laughter in tonight’s performance was more of a nervous titter than the fact that the script or story was hysterical.

This is a story about Semyon Semyonovich, a poor man, out of work living in what is called the “glorious Workers Republic”. It is his plan to become a world class tuba player, but not knowing how to play the instrument makes his dream unreachable. Being in despair, he contemplates at the urging of others to end it all and become a martyr so he can show the political powers that what they are doing is wrong. It is a silly plot, but we are told, in reality, the original script caused Stalin to send the playwright ( Erdman) straight to Siberia and thus it was never produced in Russia. Perhaps, it should have been sent to Siberia as well.

However, as lame as the story is and the dialogue within, the cast of six actors take on 27 different roles and change costumes on a regular basis and for this alone, it is worth having a go at this production. The set and props were designed by an army- Delia Baseman,Bob Kruse,Kate Nawrocki and Emily Schwartz. Nothing fancy, bot after all it is the story and the characters that we are supposed to get involved with.  Bob Kruse directed the action as well in theater 1 at Theater Wit, one of the three intimate spaces on Belmont and keeps the flow of action on this Stalin banned Russian story. Ms Baseman does a fine job with the costuming ( I think there were almost 40 in all) and Michael Huey’s original music did add a nice touch.

To be honest, it is the actors who make this a somewhat enjoyable experience, Scott Cupper as Semyon, Jennifer Henry Starewich as his wife ( and others),Stuart Ritter, Brian Grey , Joseph Stearns ( always fun to watch) and the adorable Elizabeth Bagby, who goes from old woman to sexpot in the wink of an eye. They do some quick changes of costumes and characters and many take a shot at playing the high Priest ( one of the funny bits).The live musicians, onstage are Marty Scanlon and Sarah Scanlon.Adapting a play from one language and culture to another is not always an easy thing to do. The premise of this what might be called a farce is worthy of looking at, but I would have to say that something got lost in the translation.

“Goodbye Cruel World” will continue at Theater Wit located at 1229 West Belmont Avenue through July 22nd with performances as follows:

Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.  Running time 90 minute, no intermission!

Ticketsare $25- general admission and $13.50 for students with a valid ID

There are some VIP seats at $50 called RIP ( really important persons), the best seats in the Republic which come with a signed screen print by the cast.

To get your tickets call 773-975-8150 or visit www.theaterwit.org

learnmore by visiting the “Goodbye Cruel World” page at www.theatreinchicago.com 

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