Thursday October 19th 2017

“The Mistakes Madeline Made”

Not Recommended*  I love live theater! I love the big splashy productions and the smaller storefronts! I enjoy seeing the vast number of talented performers in the Chicago area as well as the new material that comes along on a regular basis. That being said, there are shows that fail because of poor scripts, bad direction or even bad performances. This is not the case with  the Chicago Premiere of Elizabeth Meriwether’s “The Mistakes Madeline Made”, now onstage  at The Greenhouse Theater Center on Lincoln Avenue. The story is about a young woman, Edna ( well played by Hilary Williams) who is employed in some sort of “family” operation where a staff takes care of the day to day lives of a very wealthy family, from what appears to be the basement headquarters or operation center. Edna, it turns out , recently lost her brother in the middle east as he perished in the war, and although not clearly stated, this has caused her to become  an ablutophobia This is the fear of bathing and of everything tidy and neat). Ms Meriwether never makes this clear to us in the words of the script and in many scenes, we see Buddy (Joel Ewing) in HER bathtub, fully dressed. Edna tells him that it is he who has the problem/disease/phobia- who knows as most of what they speak about makes no sense, including who is Buddy? A boyfriend? or perhaps, he represents her dearly departed brother. I say this because Edna seems to have no problem attracting other men for sexual pleasures. Fred Geyer takes on the roles of her three lovers, Drake,Blake and Jake. Funny and wild caricatures, who eventually find her disgusting BO ( body odor) a real turn off. The other male character in the story is one of Edna’s co-workers, Wilson ( the very funny Chris Zdenek, who is consistent as this true nerd) who as they plot an attack on their supervisor Beth ( Kristin Collins taking on a role that truly has no place to go) over something as small and ridiculous as a box of “handi-wipes”. Turns out that these little packaged wipees are what makes their little George’s snack pack perfect, but also the true item that allows Wilson to show his true love for Edna. Collins deserved a better character than Beth.

Are you a bit confused? Don’t feel bad! I think almost half of the audience watching this 90 minute ( no intermission) dark comedy  had the same feeling. I am still trying to figure out who Madeline was. The only mention of this name was when Edna read a passage from a Dr. Joyce Brothers book, and that was only in passing and had nothing to do with the actual story. Edna appears to be a nice girl who is trying to make a living by day and release her loneliness at night. She mentions having a roommate ( who we never see), so why didn’t the smell bother her? Wilson is the wackiest of characters, but probably the most sincere and real as there are plenty of “nerds” out there who have some wild habits or nuances, but are in fact, sincere and honest about life. I imagine that is Ms Meriwether has some time between seasons of her TV sit-com, she might want to look at this script and revise it to make the people and the situation clearer. It is important to advise people about this phobia, but in a setting that is closer to reality, not a sit-com!

Krista D’Agostino did the best she could with the scipt at hand and while her cast is made up of solid actors, you can only squeeze so much orange juice out of an orange. She kept the 90 minutes running smoothly on a unique set designed by Inseung Park, with an upper level setting for the bathtub and file drawers that became doorways. The lighting by Eric Branson filled the stage with the proper lighting and the sound(Danielle Stack) was audible. There were some funny sounds in the theater, but they may have been from audience members playing “words with friends” or texting ( a no-no despite being in a boring play- you can always see something positive, but you need to look). There are a ton of props in this production and I imagine that Toni Kendrick and her people spent a great deal of time gathering all the “stuff”.

Live Wire Chicago Theatre is a young group of  artists who create theater that reflects the current cultural landscape of our community. I have enjoyed some of their previous work and looked forward to this one. I think that given a better script, the actors and director would have given us a better production, one that would be worthy of the Live Wire reputation. If you want to see for yourself, after all, this is just one man’s opinion, “Madeline” will continue at The Greenhouse Upstairs Studio located at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue through November 3rd with performances as follows:

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the box office, or online at www.greenhousetheatre.com

To see other reviews, go back to my home page- click on theatre in chicago, when you get there, go to review round-up and click on “The Mistakes Madeline Made”

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