Review "The Metal Children": A Writer's Fantasy Nightmare!

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Chicago Theatre Reviews for April 17th 

Narrated by Joshua Volkers

Next Theatre presents
THE METAL CHILDREN

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At 927 Noyes Street, Evanston
Written by Adam Rapp
Directed by Joanie Shultz
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 2pm
Saturdays (April 23, 30 and May 7) at 4pm
Thru May 8th
Buy Tickets
Running Time:  Two hours and ten minutes includes an intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh 

Meredith Miller has become the instigator of a high school rebellion.  In her name, vandalism, suicide and pregnancy are plaguing a small Midwestern town.  How can Meredith stop the madness?  She can't!  She's not real!   Next Theatre presents the Midwest Premiere of THE METAL CHILDREN.  Tobin, a burn-out of a novelist, finds out his young adult book, "The Metal Children," has been banned.  At a teacher's request, Tobin agrees to speak at the upcoming town hall meeting.  When he arrives in town, Tobin receives a mixed reception.  The teenage rebels want to worship him. The Good Church of Christ wants to save him.  The Pork Club wants to kill him.  His book's protagonist is the cult leader of a controversial faction.  How can Tobin stop the madness?  He can't!  He doesn't remember the book.  THE METAL CHILDREN is a writer's fantasy nightmare.  Supernatural dramatic comedy! It's David Sedaris enjoying a "Twilight" following but having to answer to Glenn Beck.      
 

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Playwright Adam Rapp penned a play about a story that came to life.  Rapp balances satire with thriller for humorous captivation.  Aiding in the intrigue, Joanie Schultz stages it in surround sound.  Schultz uses the entire theatre to create a virtual reality. Startling outbursts from nearby seats put the audience in the Bible-thumping crossfire.  In the lead, Sean Cooper (Tobin) continually surprises with a multi-dimensional expose of the flawed author.  Hilarious cynicism is balanced with confessional-type revelations.  In the town hall meeting, Cooper reveals his book's inspiration with poignant intimacy.  He is so in-the-moment and in-the-character that the disclosure feels like a one-on-one  personal exchange with an audience member.  Embolden by fiction, Caroline Neff (Vera) animates fanaticism with passionate sensibility.  Neff engages in a scary funny way.  As the zealous agent, Mark Grapey (Bruno) kicks up the funny being pushy-supportive.  The entire ensemble entertains as a town gone crazy... by the book.

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Scenic designer Chelsea Warren splits up the scenes with movable vertical blinds.  The clever utilization focuses attention on the featured locale.  In the first act, Rapp plops the  audience into the novel-based frenzy.  The satire is edgy bizarre that rivets right into a a scene shocker intermission.  The second act, Rapp loses some of the weirdness with an unfortunate believability.  The characters' transformations continue to arouse interest beyond the curtain.  It's a post-show sequel-waiting-to-happen interest.  A writer wants his words read...maybe even quoted.  But idolized as a new Bible by teenagers?   THE METAL CHILDREN is a satircal page-turner of a war on words.         

Production photography courtesy of Michael Brosilow.

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