I hang my meddling credentials on a married couple celebrating 20+ years. I did that! With only one real success, I still get in there to match-to-win. On a particular tragic set-up, I was a witness to my interference. We set David’s best friend up with my mom’s coworker. The conversation was reduced to listing favorite ice creams and TV shows. It dragged on and on. I just wanted the night to end. Thankfully, David’s buddy choked on a tortilla chip and threw up at the table. Ironically, I had felt nauseous since the introductions and could easily have spewed the ending earlier.
A Red Orchid Theatre presents Chicago premiere of BECKY SHAW. Max and Suzy are best friends. They have 25+ year history. Their dysfunctional childhoods bond them together in codependence. They call each other out on sh#t. Their language is the crass ball-busting variety. When Suzy marries Andrew, Max is put out. To make amends, Suzy sets Max up with Andrew’s co-worker Becky Shaw. This blind date changes everything. BECKY SHAW is wacky and demands attention.
Playwright Gina Gionfriddo penned a hilarious dissection of love. All kinds of love… romantic, obsessive, maternal, unhealthy. Flawed characters wonderfully define and redefine *love.* It’s a twisted script with ‘little pockets of joy to get through.’ The dialogue crackles with offense. Leading the mockery, Lance Baker (Max) delivers unfiltered discourse. His insensitivity is rewarded by the audience’s continued laughter. The reaction follows his lines so closely, it sounds like a comedy sitcom laugh-track. Mierka Girten (Becky Shaw) is perfectly quirky. Girten looks normal but her intensity is madcap bizarre. The chemistry between Baker and Girten weirdly engages for its train-wreck quality.
Director Damon Kiely paces the dialogue quick and overlapping. The conversations and set-up feel authentic. My one speed bump was the casting of Suzanna. I’ve seen Jennifer Engstrom (Suzanna) perform spectacularly in many roles. I just really didn’t love her in this one. She does a fine job but I can’t shake the idea that she is acting. So, her performance disconnects me from empathizing about her relationships.
I really enjoyed this show. Laughing at other people trying to define relationships is a self-indulgence I allow myself. Gionfriddo looks at what people need, want and settle on. BECKY SHAW is thought-provoking! Well, maybe not so much the actual Becky character but the show makes me consider what love negotiations truly entail.
Seeing our Lance Baker show together, Tom describes it with ‘dark, witty, overstuffed.’
Running Time: Two hours and twenty minutes includes an intermission
At A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells Street
Written by Gina Gionfriddo
Directed by Damon Kiely
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru November 6th
Production photograph courtesy of Michael Brosilow.