One of my favorite “storefront” theater venues is Redtwist on Bryn Mawr where they use their small space to the fullest. Their mission statement says that they will do “white hot drama in a tiny black box, with a little red twist” and over the years, I have found that the productions they select are exactly this. Their current production, a World Premiere by Erik Gernand, “The Beautiful Dark” is a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Once again, we have a dysfunctional family. In this case,Nancy ( the always strong Jaqueline Grandt) an educator has two sons, one away at college and the other preparing to enter high school. Her ex-husband Tom ( deftly handled by Tommy Lee Johnston) is the local law. What happens at the very onset is that the elder son, Jacob ( a strong performance by Aaron Kirby) is coming home from leaving college. His younger brother, Charlie ( Jacob Bond, who was involved in the reading done on this show) idolizes Jacob and wants to rebuild the family unit.
As the story progresses ( 90 minutes, no intermission) , we learn a great deal about the family and the deep dark secrets that have brought them to where they are today. Jacob in unhappy and in his writings we can see that he is troubled and suicidal. We find out that he did not flunk out of school but rather was kicked out for writing a play involving a killing spree on campus. nancy and Tom feel that the play may be a depiction of what Jacob is planning. As more is learned, Nancy begins to fear that her son might be capable of doing this. I found that there was more in the second half of the story that brought us some confusion and that it might be possible that Gernand could go back and finish the intensity of the story and the storage contents, the gun that is mentioned eralier and some other loose ends. The other, much smaller story involving Nancy and one of her subordinates ( a teacher at her school who once had Jacob as a student) played by Scott Olson is a small substory that really had no place in the outcome and could have been left out. It was cumbersome in that furniture had to be altered for the scenes ( and at the end, even that was not the same) and perhaps would have allowed more insight into what was really going on in Jacob’s head and does he do himself harm at the end.
While I think that Josh Altman’s direction in this intimate space was solid, I truly feel that teh story is not ended ( at least for me). Dan Stratton’s set is just a large space where the audience surrounds the playing area with a kitchen area on one end, a living area on the other and the walls lined with audeince members viewing from side to side ( almost like watching a tennis match). Christopher Kriz original music adds some intrigue to the story, but overall, this is a new play, still in works and can be further developed in the future. The actors are so powerful, I am suggesting that this be a “to do” or “to-see” play- you definitely will get your money’s worth.
“The Beatiful Dark” will continue through September 8th ( this is an extension) with performances as follows:
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Running time is 90 minutes
To order your tickets call the box office at 773-728-7529 or visit email@example.com
To learn more about the show(s), visit www.redtwist.org
The theater is located at 1044 W. Bryn Mawr ( just East of the RED Line stop at Bryn Mawr. There is street parking ( meter box) and side streets ( free) and some of the area restaurants offer Valet parking
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Beautiful Dark”
Redtwist has added some other theatrical opportunities as well- On Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Sundays and Mondays at 7:30 p.m. “All -American” and late nights Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. “Drunk and Ready”