There are times when I wonder why new theater companies open with plays that are not exactly what they are meant to be. One of Chicago’s new companies- Chicago Theater Sweatshop as part of its “Mission Statement” says that what they want to do is build “cross cultural” theater. In their first production, “Tables and Beds an Unromantic Comedy”, I did not see this happening. The play written and directed by Emilio Williams, a recent transplant from Madrid ( based on a play entitled “Camas y Mesas ,una comedia muy poco romantica”, I could not see the romance or the comedy. The play is about two couples, four friends and has been set in Chicago, with lots of local mentions ( just to make sure we know they are here.
Todd ( Christopher Kauffmann)is a homosexual, who has been best friends with Mar ( Geraldine Dulex) since childhood. He is living with Charlie ( deftly handled by Bryn Packard). Her husband Thomas ( Christopher Popio) is an associate of Charlei’s which is how they met. Thomas has a past that Mar needs to know about and Todd has one as well. The story is about their loves, current and lost and their relationship as individuals as well.
The script is very loose and the events do not always go together. There are many cliches of the “gay” world as well as unanswered questions about the past stories that are made reference to. The actors try to overcome the weakness of the script and while they work hard to do so, they cannot escape the boring story itself. The stage is set with two dressing tables where the actors sit and from these spots go to their spots. The rest of the set is a bed and on the other side of the stage a table with chairs. The bed represents all of their beds and the table the same. There are no other changes with the exception of the lighting ( set and lights by Brian Sidney Bembridge). I will say that the choice of mood music by Gabriel Dib does help the show while Tonette Navarro’s costumes do very little in the way of enhancing the storyline.
Could this have been a better told story? Yes! If we had learned more about the characters prior to being thrown into their confused stories, we might have felt something for them. Mar is married to a man who was previously married and had children, but knows nothing about them or what caused the break-up . She does find something out later but never reveals the facts and Thomas never explains when confronted. Todd had a lover that he wrote journals about and yet never talks about even when confronted by Charlie. On business trip, Thomas and Charlie get drunk and end up in bed together. Is Thomas bi-sexual? ( another story left untold).
This is a first effort for a new company and I am hopeful that the next play they choose will be more to what they have in their “Mission”. Meanwhile, if you want to see this one, you have only until April 6th at Stage 773 located at 1225 West Belmont. Performances are on Wednesdays,Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $30 and can be reserved online at www.stage773.com or by phone at 773-327-5252.
To learn more about this company and their future productions, visit www.chicagosweatshop.org
To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click “Tables and Beds”