Monday September 1st 2014

“The North Plan”

It is always nice to see one of the “first look” productions from Steppenwolf make it to a regular production on one of our other stages. Theater Wit, that cozy new theater on Belmont, is now presenting the local premiere of Jason Wells’ slightly wacky comedy, “The North Plan”. A play that is filled with comic touches but a story that is far from funny. Try to imagine being in a very rural town, a town filled with “rednecks”, where a bureaucrat has been taken into custody because he has an enemy list that the FBI truly wants as there is a group that is taking over the government. This man, Carlton Berg ( deftly handled by Kevin Stark) fears for his life and must get this list to the press before all hell breaks loose. But, he is in a holding cell in this small town with no help in sight…except, the drunk lady in the other holding cell, Tanya Shepke ( brilliantly played by the always reliable Kate Buddeke).

Tanya, a local has turned herself into the police because she has bene drinking and doesn’t want another DUI. While she is desperate to get out and home to her kids ( she is fighting for custody), she starts to beleive that Carlton might be on the up and up and when he offers her a chance to get $50,000 for the list, she makes a plan to come back and get it, no matter what.

During this smartly timed production, brilliantly directed by Kimberly Senior, who shows a true comic touch on this very intimate stage, we see many close calls between Tanya and the FBI Agents that have come to find this missing list, Pitman ( Tom Hickey) and his sidekick/partner Lee ( Brian King). Pitman would prefer to just get rid of this whole matter, get the list and get out of this “hole-in-the-wall” town, but due to the local chief of police, Swenson ( a very nice touch by Will Zahrn) and his employee,Shonda ( nicely handled by Lucy Sandy) obstacles keep arising that delay his actions.

This is roughly 90 minutes of pure fun, but is in two acts ( there is an intermission) so they can change the set from the holding area to that of the office area. Once again, Jack Magaw shows why many of the theaters want him to do their sets..everything fits what one would expect to find in a small town local police department in rural Missouri. Scott Pillsbury’s lighting adds a great touch and Jenny Pinson’s props are perfect. The beauty of being in a 99 seat theater is the intimacy that one feels with the action on the stage and being able to hear every word of the witty script.

There are gunshots in this production and a lot of use of the “F” word, but let’s face it, we are in “redneck” country and one would expect to hear what we hear. If you can take this as a farce for the comic touches and allow for the storyline as one that is far-fetched ( or is it?), you will find yourself having a good time. Over the years, I have enjoyed the work of Ms. Buddeke and she continues to impress me with her powerful character building. Stark is another powerful actor a sis the adorable Ms Sandy ( who many might recall in another production housed in this venue “A Twist Of Water”, a much more serious role).

“The North Plan” will continue at Theater Wit, located at 1229 West Belmont through April 1st with performances as follows:

Thursday,Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. There is a special “industry” performance on Monday, March 5th at 7 p.m. which allows other actors and production people a chance to go to the theater as well.

Tickets range from $18-$36 ( a bargain for theater this strong) and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 773-975-8150 or online at www.TheaterWit.org

There is street parking, some metered some not, valet parking and if you dine at Cooper’s, they offer free parking. Forget your everyday troubles and have some fun at Theater Wit with this novel little play.

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