Recommended*** Chicago’s theater community continues to grow, in numbers, in talent and in production values. This is something we can be very proud of. There is a new “kid on the block”, !NTERROBANG Theatre Project, which has as it’s “Mission” to bring to our stages, timely plays that are not readily seen on our stages. Their intent is to ” do theater that will change our world, one play at a time!”.While this is the third season for this young troupe, most Chicago audiences have not had many opportunities to see their work. Another young troupe, Bare Bone Theater Group, recently transplanted from Charlotte, N.C. is merging with !NTERROBANG and is now presenting, in its Chicago Premiere, “Orange Flower Water”, a lovely little 90 minute production written by Craig Wright, now on the West stage at The Raven Theatre complex ( if one can call a two stage theater a “complex”.
The story is about two couples, both living in the same neighborhood, who have children that play soccer together as well as attend the same school and as neighbors have some social ties. Both of these couples are in marriages that are falling apart, for very different reasons and Beth ( the lovely and quite sensual Ina Strauss) finds herself falling in love with David ( a strong performance by Keith Neagle). For some time, almost three years, they have “made out” and find themselves needing each other more as the time goes on. In the opening scene they are in a Motel room, for the very first time, away from all distractions which will allow them to consummate this torrid love affair.
Directed by James Yost in this very intimate theater, the set is a simple black walled room- in the center a bed with two night stands and on the sides, four chairs with different clothing set for the four characters. Each actor has their place and when not on stage, they sit at their chair, almost appearing to be watching the story unfold with us. There is no credit for set design or costumes, but the simplicity of the design truly helps to carry the story forward. Prior to the Motel scene, we meet David’s wife, Cathy ( the lovely Cyd Blakewell) who has written a note to her sleeping husband listing his chores while she goes out of town on business. She of course has no idea that their marriage is in trouble ( or so it seems). Beth’s husband , Brad ( deftly handled by Joseph Wiens) is sort of crude and selfish, caring more about sports than his family.
During the scene, we see Brad and David watching their kids play soccer and talking about all the adorable “soccer moms” . We see from this scene just why Beth is not a happy person. In the intimacy of the small venue, this production works better than I had anticipated and all four of the actors are quite strong in moving from scene to scene, using the same bed with different dressings as the focal point. As the story progresses, we find that Beth is ready to leave Brad and that Brad calls Cathy to let her know that their spouses have been involved. Cathy, not wanting to give up her life tries to seduce David to prove to him that it is still her he loves and while they do have sex, she sees that it is Beth he is thinking about.
Complications come from incidents such as this, which I know do happen all over America, not just in “bedroom communities”, but big cities as well. Who gets the kids, the house and how will this effect the lifestyles as well as the kids themselves. “Orange Flower Water” takes us nto this world in a realistic manner with Brad getting his house and custody as does cathy. David and Beth, when seeking to find a new home encounter some additional problems as to the space they will need so that when the kids come to visit they will feel as if this is their home. These changes cause some friction between these lovers and for a moment make sthem feel that perhaps they have both made mistakes. Not to give away the twist, there is a “Happy Ending” and the title becomes clearer then. I did have a slight problem with the ending letter that David recites as it almost made me lose the “happy ending ” thought, but after speaking with others, I realizes that this was Wright’s way of clarification that it is a “happy ending”
The lighting by Claire Chrzan and sound/music by Julie Strassel truly added to the intensity of the story being told, but it is the actors who made the characters real. For those of you with soccer kids who spend time at the games, it may be that some of these parents are in a situation very like that of Beth and David, and many couples, because of the busy lives we lead, may not know anything is wrong with their life.. all it takes is a little caring from someone else to fill in the gap of what you are not getting at home to change your world.
At tonight’s opening, there was a mishap in the audience with a gentleman getting ill, at in the story , a most inappropiate time, but this is after all “live” theater and as such, the play was stopped with the gentleman escorted to the lobby for assistance. The house lights were brought up and the actors left the stage for several minutes. The audience did not over react and minutes later, the actors resumed the places they were at, a momnet to redo the lights and the play resumed to perfetcion. Despite the interuption, nothing was lost and I wish to congratulate the talented quartet of actors for their ability not to lose focus in a moment that could not have been anticipated. Bravo!
“Orange Flower Water” will continue at The Raven Theatre Complex located at 6157 N. Clark Street ( at Granville) through June 9th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 3:30 p.m.
Tickets are $25 ( there are senior and student discounts). I suggest that you not bring anyone under the age of 16 as there is a simulated sex scene that may cause them to cringe or react.
To purchase tickets call 773-338-2177 or online at http://www.RavenTheatre.com
There is a parking lot ( free) adjacent to the theater and some free street parking on Granville an dthe bus stops right in front of the door ( #22 )
To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com , go to Review Round-up and click at “Orange Flower Water”
To learn more about the upcoming seaosn www.interrobobangtheatreproject.org