Strawdog Theatre Company is an Ensemble, located on Broadway ( our Broadway, not that of New York) and has done some wonderful work over the years. This being said, they are doing some new things in their “cabaret” theater located next door to their main stage at 3829 N. Broadway, second floor. This room is called Hugen-Halll, a very intimate space with about 44 seats and stools and a bar, where the performers work the room. What they are doing now is a 55 minute interpretation of “The Hunting of The Snark” written by Lewis Carroll. This is a poem filled with nonsense words where we go on a voyage with the assortment of players to a peculiar land in search of Snarks. There is nothing that could offend in this nonsensical poem that this company brings to life with great energy as directed in this small space by Josh Sobel, utilizing the small space to its best advantage.
There is no real set, just a number of chairs, a ladder on wheels and lots of suitcases, as each of the cast members takes what they have on this mysterious journey to an unknown place in search of Snarks! Is there a real story? Do we get the snarks? Will the Butcher ( Casey Pilkenton) stay friends with the beaver (Julia Meese)? Can the Baker ( Sarah Rose Graber) prepare snark? Will the Barrister ( the adorable Emily Gann) stay awake? There are numerous questions that arise during this nonsensical 55 minutes of “play”. I found this to be enjoyable and left with a smile on my face, but is this truly theater?
Upon arriving at Hugen-Hall, entering the area where the action was to take place, I found an assortment of young actors/performers playing “limbo”, practicing their movements and balancing sticks. I was asked to be the “keeper of the rope” so when they needed it , they would know where it was. Another patron was asked to be the “keeper of the feather” and we watched these young people get into the “silly mode” which was preparing them for the adaptation we were about to see. Everyone was also asked to feel free to draw a picture of a “Snark” for their wall of fame- I opted out on that request, but did “protect the rope”.
One can see that a lot of effort went int creating these characters- the Broker (Suzanna Ziko), The Billiard-maker (Christian Stokes), The Bard (Alexix Randolph), Boots ( Ed Porter) The Bellman ( a strong performance by Michael Mercier, who along with the Narrator, Errol McLendon, have the majority of the lines),Bonnets (Kaitlyn Majoy) and the Banker (Andrew Bailes) in addition t the forementioned Ms Graber, Ms Pilkenton and Ms Meese. A great deal of energy and to my eye some talent which I am sorry to say can’t be seen in this particular piece.
Leah Tirado’s music, Michelle Underwood’s projections and Joanna Melville’s costumes along with Aileen McGroddy’s movement/dance ( in such a tiny spot, amazingly no one on stage or in the audience gets harmed) are the additives to the words and Sobel’s sharp direction. If you are just seeking an hour to have a drink and forget about the day and have a few laughs, this is an inexpensive way to do so- Tickets are $15 ( a bit more than a movie and this is live theater !
for reservations call 773-528-9696 or go to www.strawdog.org
To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Hunting of The Snarks”