The 50-seat Writers' Theatre space at the back of the Books on Vernon bookstore in Glencoe is one of my favorite places to see intimate theatre. On the other hand, it must be a challenge to produce a show in this limited space even though Writers' somehow manages to pull it off.
Writers’ latest production, Yellow Moon--a modern day Bonnie and Clyde saga--traverses a small village near the Scottish capital city of Edinburgh to the rugged mountainous landscape of the Scottish Highlands. The scope of the play alone would seem to make staging it an even bigger challenge than others. Yet, amazingly, it is staged with just FOUR chairs in a small space surrounded on four sides by the audience seated in two rows--kind of a theatre-in-the-square bringing an intense intimacy to the story. (Writers' is not this first to stage the show in this manner).
The well-oiled production consists of four actors playing six characters as well as narrators. The ensemble seamlessly melds the lyrical rendering of the plot by the hot, trending Playwright David Greig with three shows in Chicago this year--CST's "The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart" and Remy Bumppo's "Creditors" with a single focus. The simple staging for Yellow Moon turns out to be the perfect backdrop for the drama--illuminating the story not the storyteller and uninhibited by a busy set.
When Leila (Ashleigh LaThrop) a Muslim immigrant "good girl" with secrets and a tendency to cut her flesh in order to "feel real" meets the 17-year-old cocky "bad boy" Josh Salt as Lee or "Stag Lee," as he prefers to be called in a 24-hour superstore, the two instantly hit it off. They exit the store and head to the cemetery where they share a bottle of wine while Lee makes an intriguing offer to Leila that's hard to refuse. “I’m thinking of going into business as a pimp,” Lee says, you wanna to come along? With a nod yes from "Silent Leila" their wild escapade takes off with their wounded psyches and inner demons on-board for the ride.
In addition to LaThrop and Salt, the top-drawer cast features Lee's alcoholic depressive mom Jenni (Karen Janes Woditsch) and her boyfriend Billy (John Lister) who has a love/hate relationship with Lee--with hate winning out. Woditsch and Lister each play second roles as Frank and Holly as well as taking turns as narrators.
Although the show is brutal, involving murder, alcoholism, depression, stabbing, cutting a heart from a deer (and worse) it is also humorous--kind of a poetic drama juxtaposed with traditional dialogue and punctuated with a dose of whimsy.
Tickets and Information
Writers' Theatre at Books on Vernon, 664 Vernon Ave., Glencoe, tickets $35-$60 at (847) 242 6000 or online at Writers' Theatre website. Easy street parking is available on Vernon or Park. Running time: 80 minutes. Through August 14.
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