"Hostage Song" (Signal Ensemble): Hostage + Song = Masterpiece

"Hostage Song" (Signal Ensemble):  Hostage + Song = Masterpiece

#101.  How does it feel to be a hostage?  Our viewpoint is contrived from media manipulation.  Initially, CNN showcases an emotional message from the hostage’s parent on the hour.  FOX News broadcasts a well-coiffed politico addressing the nation’s response. The terrorists release threatening public service announcements on the Internet.  As the captivity is prolonged, American interest wanes. It’s not really *news* anymore.   Still, somewhere out there in the unknown darkness - a daughter, a husband - somebody’s somebody is waiting to be freed.  What are they thinking?

Signal Ensemble Theatre presents the Chicago premiere of HOSTAGE SONG.  Jennifer  is a reporter.  Jim is a civilian contractor.  They’ve been sleeping together for awhile.  Not in a sexual way but in the imprisoned, blindfolded and tied up way.  They are hostages being detained in a foreign country.  Their past is a faraway home.  Their present is dark confinement.  Their future is an uncertain existence.  What are they thinking?  HOSTAGE SONG is an eye-opening, stomach-churning, soul-stirring, rock and roll fantasy.

Playwright Clay McLeod Chapman imagines life from two hostages’ perspectives.  Chapman gets inside their heads.  He balances the contentious reality with humorous surreality. It’s real and it’s not! Within this horrific world, Chapman interjects a guess-who-is-coming-to-dinner scene. It’s an amusing catch-your-breath moment as Steve O’Connell (Jim) and Simone Roos (Jennifer) tell Jennifer’s parents how they met.  The absurdity escalates as Dave Skvarla (dad) audibly disapproves of the boyfriend choice.  Under the direction of Ronan Marra, the talented cast tie you up in knots.  You connect with them.  You care about them.  You worry for them.  O’Connell and Roos perform the entire show blindfolded.  It heightens the authenticity and dramatic edge.  Their anguish ranges from gameplaying irritation to gritty helplessness to pure desolation.  Powerful stuff.  In particular, O’Connell sings with voice-cracking emotion and later delivers an eloquent matter-of-fact description. He makes me misty and later queasy.

Even though the name is HOSTAGE SONG, I continue to get so wrapped up in the hostage crisis in the room, that the band -ever present on stage- continue to surprise me by cueing up a tune.  But this IS a musical.  Composer Kyle Jarrow provides an indie rock soundtrack with equal parts rebellion against the establishment and resignation to the political climate.  Conducted by a piano-playing Jon Steinhagen, the band accompanies this saga with bittersweet and haunting melodies.  A soulful Joseph Stearns leads the solid singing by the ensemble. In such a riveting drama, the musical aspect perfectly enhances the overall experience.  The combination hostage + song = masterpiece.  WOW!

Running Time: One hundred and five minutes with no intermission

At Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice

Book by Clay McLeod Chapman

Music and lyrics by Kyle Jarrow

Arranged by Nathan Leigh

Musical direction by Jon Steinhagen

Directed by Ronan Marra

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm

Sundays at 3pm

Thru June 9th

Buy Tickets at www.signalensemble.com


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