Old habits are hard to break. I am sure that many of you have a group of friends (buds, if you are guys around forty) with whom youhave great memories of your younger days. In Brett Neveu’s “Red Bud”, now having its U.S. Premiere at Signal Ensemble Theatre, we have a group like this. This is their annual trip to “Red Bud”, a championship Motocross Rave, somewhere in the rural countryside. While they have all had life changing experience over the twenty something years since this tradition began, this is the time in their lives that each sort of relive the happiness of the days of their youth.
They no longer share anything but the past and this special road trip, so as the 70 plus minute one act play progresses, we learn a great deal about each of the characters and the changes in their lives. The guys in the pack are Shane (Bries Vannon) a social worker who has been demoted and appears to be frustrated with his current life, Bill (Joseph Stearns) a firefighter, who has brought his 19 year old girlfriend Jana ( deftly handled by Samantha Beach) to the trip, Jason (Colby Sellers) an unemployed loser” who is all alone in life with the exception of this group, Greg (Joe McCauley) and his pregnant wife Jen (a solid performance by Sarah Gitenstein) who are probably the most normal of all.
As the evening goes on and the group plays their drinking games, smokes their weed and goes at each other, we see the weirdness of this annual relationship and how these people have never really grown up. In fact, it is the teen-ager, Jana, who seems to make the most sense and questions them about their lives and why they love coming to “Red Bud” each year. Those in the group, as the games continue, begin to reveal stories of their past in more truth than they ever knew, and from this we watch these old friendships disintegrate.
While the production, ably directed by Brant Russell and well performed by a very solid cast is one that has no flaws, I found the story to be one that needed a little more depth. We have an ending, but I for one,was not satisfied that all of the characters’ stories were completed for the audience. Neveu’s plays are for the most part gritty and his characters very real. He uses references to Chicago areas with great ease and the set (Dan Stratton) and lighting (Michael Stanfill) along with the sound (Thomas Dixon) made the technical part feel as if we were in a field somewhere in Indiana. Signal’s space is a very intimate one, bringing us close to the action. The action will continue at Signal located at 1802 West Bernice, just south of Irving Park between Ravenswood and Lincoln Ave, through February 28th with performances as follows:
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Extra INDUSTRY performance on Monday, February 9th at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $23- $15 for seniors, students and industry and can be ordered by calling 773-698-7389 or online at www.signalensemble.com
Street parking is available and the theater is easy to get to by public transportation. The theater is handicapped accessible as well.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Red Bud”