Upon entering the Richard Christiansen Theater, upstairs at The Biograph,Victory Gardens, one sees a replica of the MacDonald’s back on the corner of Fullerton and Lincoln. William Boles must spend a great deal of time there as his detail is superb. I knew that the play, “Mai Dang Lao” dealt with an incident that took place in a fast food restaurant and understood that playwright David Jacobi may have strayed from the actual events to avoid lawsuits and to make his tale more dramatic with some funny moments, here and there.
Directed by Marti Lyons, this is an 85 minute tale (no intermission) that deals with the “food chain” (sorry for the pun) in that industry; the workers and how they go from order taker to manager -in- training and so on. In this story we meet a crew that reminds us that the workers in this industry are not the smartest of the smart. Many are part-timers and students. Many are drop-outs or people who have lost their better paying jobs. This is a well -known fast food restaurant, but could be any of the brands. The main story, the one that depicts the event that took place (there was a great episode on “Law and Order” depicting the same event) is about Sophie (Sophie Price truly does what she can with a script that lacks power). Sophie is a worker that doesn’t comply with what her bosses would want her to be. In other words, she doesn’t fit the mold.
We watch her and her co-workers do their tasks and get to know them in the first fifteen minutes. Kara ( LaNisa Renee Frederick) is her shift manager, Mike (Andrew Goetten) her co-worker and Nancy (Tyler Meredith) , the assistant-manager-in-training. They are all under the leadership of Roy (Matt Fletcher) who is a major part of the story. After we meet the characters and get to “know” them, we find that they have received a phone call from the police ( done by voice Jim Poole) advising them that Sophie had stolen money. Kara, at first, and then Mike, hold her in the office (cleverly designed sliding wall behind the service counter ) as they are told to hold her and during the story disrobe.
I am not sure if this follows the actual event and if anyone would remove their clothes and be treated like this. I would expect that there would be legal issues all over the place in today’s litigious world. There is also an incident with Mike being injured that made no sense to the story as well as a customer supposedly entering the store that was not really their. While I realize that Jacobi is focused on the worker bees, having an invisible diner, who was an old acquaintance of Kara’s, was confusing to the audience. In fact, the end was confusing as we never truly understand why Sophie was accused. We do know that Roy was upset with her as she did not cling to him as she had done with others at a party they were at. In fact, it was a party where she offered sexual favors to almost everyone BUT him.
I think that Sideshow may want to take a closer look at this production and how it relates to their mission. Yes, it takes a story from the real world and examines it, but only to a point. I felt that the characters had no redeeming features at all and that Sophie, although young would have fought off what was being done to her. You can judge for yourself as “Mai Dang Lao” ( I have no idea what this means) will continue at The Richard Christiansen Theater located on the second floor of The Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue through April 10th with performances as follows:
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets $20-$30 OPEN seating (students/seniors/Industry $5 off.
To reserve yours call 773-871-3000 or visit www.victorygardens.org
To learn more about the company, visit www.sideshowtheatre.org
Parking is tight in the Lincoln Park area, some metered, some not.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Mai Dang Lao”