Tuesday January 24th 2017

“The Sweeter Option”

strawdog2Strawdog Theatre Company is one of my favorite “storefronts” although it is not truly a “storefront” as it is what may have been an office or an apartment upstairs of a retail business  on Broadway, a block south of Sheridan. They are presently doing their 100th production spanning 27 years, a true milestone for any smaller theater company. On this, I congratulate them. When I read the press notes, I was kind of excited about what I was going to see this evening. A story about Chicago, circa 1971, and a sort of Mike Hammer type of private detective doing a job for a car rental agency who falls into something much larger with turns and twists. See, it does have great promise.

I watched this 80 minutes of scene changing and costume changing and became more confused as the story continued. I will say that the set (Joanna Iwanicka has done some very neat things in this very intimate 80 seat space) is creative and the way the scenes change unique with the cast of actors taking on the changes, in character. The lighting (Jordan Kardasz) and sound (Heath Hays) all add to the story, but it is the story that I found lacking. In fact, perhaps John Henry Roberts should have made the play longer than 80 minutes and added more to the story so we could figure out exactly what had happened.sweeter-option-7465

The confusion comes from the very program as the play starts with scene 2 and then proceeds to scene 1. We then go to scene 4 and then to scene 3, which would mean that these are flashbacks, but are they? Then scene 5, which is the final scene, appears to have several black-outs indicating time spans, so why are these not additional scenes? See what I am talking about!

There is confusion about the stolen rent-a-car and the insurance scam/embezzlement that connects the missing criminal, his mistress and his wife. Who knows what they all know? It is up to private eye, Tucker (Sam Guinan-Nyhart does make it interesting) to unravel the mystery. Turns out he was a baseball player in his youth. A member of the Cubs. There really is only a few mentions of this which appeared to be a way to tie the story to Chicago. Also there are mentions of Montgomery Ward and Allstate, which also help to tie the story to Chicago.

Directed by Marti Lyons with fight choreography by Ryan Bourque, I thought they did the best with the script they were presented. The main players in the cast (Guinan-Nyhart and Michaela Petro as Irene Pike work hard to keep the story interesting. The ensemble members do their roles and make the scene changes with style and grace; Matt Farabee, Rudy Galvan, Sarah Price, Jamie Vann and Emily Tate- nice work!

sweeter option

I must give special credit to Amanda Herrmann for the props in this production. This is a show filled with 1970’s stuff and she has assembled some  great “stuff”. I only wish that the show were as solid as the assembled props and furniture. The car that was built for scene 4 is amazing and one can see from the props and the set that this is a dedicated troupe of performers who are willing to tackle new projects. In this case, it is not one that I can recommend, but perhaps as they continue to perform, they will make some changes and even add something towards finishing the story. I hate leaving a show confused about the finals parts of what is called the final scene. Sound confusing? You bet!

“The Sweeter Option” will continue at Strawdog Theatre. located at  3829 N. Broadway ( second floor) through March 28th with performances as follows:sweeter option2

Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.

Sundays at 4 p.m.

Tickets are $28 and there are 6 RUSH tickets available one hour prior to each performance.

Tickets can be purchased by calling  773-528-9696 or online at www.strawdog.org

Parking in the area is complicated and sparse, but public transportation is easy to use- Red Line /Sheridan stop; 36 Broadway Bus, 80 Irving Park, 151 Sheridan.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Sweeter Option”.

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