In spite of what is happening in our economy, new theater companies continue to emerge all over our neighborhoods. For people who love theater and are adventurous in seeking new companies and young playwrights, this is a delight. One of these new companies is Tympanic Theatre, a young company” dedicated to producing new work with fantastical,frightening, or absurd subject matter that provokes,inspires and entertains.” Their current production “Muerte Del Maestro” now playing at The Side Project, a cute little storefront theater located in Rogers Park ( a neighborhood that is teeming with storefront theaters) written by Joshua Mikel is a long one act play ( roughly 75 minutes) that takes place in Spain.
Two best friends, Arturo ( deftly handled by Chris Acevedo) and Kay Kay ( Paul E, Martinez) both aspire to change their lives by becoming matadors. Their town, Atlantia, is a poor one, but for the people, the bull fights are their entertainment and most young men, in order to rise from lower class to upper class, feel this is the only road for them to take. The play, directed by Adam Webster, starts with these two young men at the fights when they are witness to the goring death of of famed matador La Muerte Negra ( brilliantly played by Megann Tabaque). Until later, they are unaware that this famed matador is in fact a woman. Both of these men live the dream that they will become the next famous matador and practice whenever possible.
Kay Kay has a sister, Pumpkin ( the lovely Carla Alegre)an art student who is in love with Arturo, as he is with her, but since Arturo is a peasant, Kay Kay tells him that he can have nothing to do with her. The play has many short scenes with quick changes of set parts to alter the location and while the story has some strength and power dealing with love, friendship and desire, because of these changes, the audience might lose concentration. I found the storyline to be one that might be expanded and so , for all intense and purposes, I will call this a play in progress; one that needs to be reworked and tweaked so that the flow of the play is as good as they story being told. Mikel has a strong idea for his story, one where the bonds of friendship are lost because of jealousy and where the results are not what these main characters could have dreamed could take place. The idea that the power of the matador’s soul can enter and take over the body of Arturo and make him the next Maestro is hard to believe given the information that Mikel has placed on the page.
The theater is very small and for this productin has been set up where audience members almost feel as if they are part of the show. We sit on benches and orange crates ( or perhaps just wooden boxes) and for a period this long with no backs, these seats can become uncomfortable. The use of puppets on a screen to indicate the matador academy try-outs, while clever, tended to be a detraction fro the story and it might have been better served to just have the two actors waiting their turns just watch off stage, The puppets were to comical at a moment when these two young men were facing their destiny and what would be the cause of their friendship terminating.
We all have ambitions and as youngsters dreams as well. I know that for many young men in poor towns, who lack education, sports may be thier only salvation; their only way to change their lives from what their parents and grandparents lived, but being a matador in Spain, is not just being an athlete. These men ( as in most cases, this one being different as she was masked, so noone knew until she died) are held in higher esteem , as if they are royalty and many would be matadors would risk all they have to be that person and be admired by the crowd and city. I can see why these two young men would be obsessed with their dreams, but what it does to their lives and those they love is terrible. If Mikel could revisit his manuscript and perhaps give us more insight into their lives by extending the stories of each of the characters, making the play a tw act play if need be and then allowing the audience to sit on cushioned chairs, I think he may have something really worthwhile and will fit the companies “mission statement”.This is very basic theater- no fancy set, no glitzy costumes, no fancy lighting, but the right background music and props ( Susan Myburgh and Heidi Hircolla) that befit the end product.
“Muerte Del Maestro” will continue until December 22nd with performances Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $15 ( $12 for students) and can be purchased by calling 773-442-2882 or online at www.tympanictheatre.org
The Side Project Theatre is located at 1439 West Jarvis in Chicago ( Red Line is walking distance and Sheridan Road bus is one block east) and there is street parking ( non-metered) on Jarvis.