A Red Orchid Theatre presents the Chicago premiere of IN A GARDEN. It’s the Middle East in 1989. An American architect is meeting with the Minister of Culture about a potential project. Minister Othman wants Mr. Hackett to construct a structure in tribute to his childhood memories. Othman wants simplistic beauty amidst a changing political climate. From this initial appointment to the next fifteen years of visits, the pair clash and bond over the building’s formation, the country’s oppression, the cultures’ differences. They find common ground in movies, women and a desire to create something sustainable. IN A GARDEN is men bonding over a prolonged erection.
Playwright Howard Korder balances dubious negotiations with pop culture. Korder uses snappy movie discourse to bridge the language barrier. It not only interjects humor into the awkward discussions, it gives the audience a sense of time period. The heavy dialogue driven script is primarily a conversation between two men. The ongoing power play is engaging as Director Lou Contey effectively keeps a veil of mystery around each man’s true intention. The business dealings zig-zag the surface as Rom Barkhordar (Othman) and Larry Grimm (Hackett) try not to compromise what they really want.
The architect part is a perfect vehicle for Grimm. He delivers American arrogance right alongside global vulnerability. Grimm has a natural ability to zing a joke or question authority with the same even keel cadence. Barkhordar, on the other hand, gives a complex and broad performance. He transforms so drastically in his 1999 scene appearance, I thought it was a different actor. He charms as a sidestepping politician on top of his game. Later, he devastates as a man crippled under dictatorship. Barkhordar is outstanding! Playing two different versions of the same ruler, Emilio G. Robles is hilarious and scary.
IN A GARDEN depicts the Middle East crisis from the inside out. It’s a powerful interior view of political deconstruction. Scenic Designer Joel Schermoly adds visual reinforcement to the finale by creatively destroying part of the set. The symbolism was compelling in a show focused on building a lasting tribute.
Running Time: Two hours includes an intermission
At A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells
Written by Howard Korder
Directed by Lou Contey
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru May 19th
Buy Tickets at www.aredorchidtheatre.org
Production photograph courtesy of Michael Brosilow