October 9, 2009
A documentary filmmaker returns to his hometown to shoot a movie. I was intrigued by the promising premise for Kill The Old Torture Their Young. Having fallen smitten with Steep Theatre during its production of Hollowlands, I had high expectations for our second date, Kill The Old Torture Their Young. I grew up in a town brimming with oddities and quirky characters. Every time I go home for a holiday, I feel like I’m a documentary filmmaker trying to see my pa-dunky youth through my big city lens. Come on! Anybody returning to a childhood home tries to reconstruct the subplots of their existence to determine what would have been if they had connected the dots differently. The subject matter is relatable, intriguing and a platform for hilarity. So, Torture, what happened?
“I don’t like when somebody comes up to me the next day and says, ‘Hey, man, I saw your play. It touched me; I cried.’ I like it when a guy comes up to me a week later and says, ‘Hey, man, I saw your play… what happened?‘” – Jeff in the movie Tootsie
What happened? Well, you can pick the hottest restaurant in town but if the food and service are lacking, it’s sure to kill the second date. Playwright David Harrower grew up in Edinburgh so maybe his disjointed script doesn’t translate well into English. Director Kathryn Walsh (no relation) staged the play in a long linear strip with two audience groupings facing each other. An initially interesting choice which proves unnecessary and distracting as characters deliver complete scenes with their back to half of the theatre. Throughout a torturous second date, you desperately look for some reason to even consider a third. Like fresh breath, good kisser, eats with his mouth closed, Torture produces some pockets of hope. Jim Poole (Steven) and Julia Siple (Heather) as characters, they struggle with mediocre lives and as actors, they struggle with mediocre material. Dereck Garner (Rock Star) and James Allen (Birdwatcher) entertain in their separate roles and as play crashers. Play crashers? You know characters that aren’t a part of the plot but awkwardly show up anyway to try to liven it up.
I’m not breaking up with Steep Theatre over Kill The Old Torture Their Young. In any progressive relationship, you need the opportunity to experiment and try new things. But Steep, believe me when I say, “Return to Love Canal is not my idea of the tunnel of love.”
My Steep Theatre matchmaker, Tom described the show as fragmented, modern, and pointless.
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
I was to meet Tom for dinner at Argyle and Sheridan. I remembered from the e-mail the restaurant started with Pho X–. Arriving on Argyle, I realized there were two choices across the street from each other: Pho Xe Lua and Pho Xua. A quick call to Tom for clarification. Knowing my pronunciation and directional barriers, Tom told me to go to the one with orange chairs. Pho Xua (1020 W. Argyle) had an extensive menu. We started with a popular appetizer that consisted of seasoned beef wrapped in betel (I was assured not bugs) leaves. I ordered a noodle dish with pork and Tom got the ginger marinated lamb. Huge portions, BYOB and tasty!
Post show, we crossed the street to try out Ollie’s Lounge (1064 W. Berwyn). We scored the perfect seats for people watching. The house specialty, pineapple juice and rum, seemed a quirky choice for the urban jamming bar. The bouncer was an enthusiastic woman who carded us and greeted everybody else with a hug. The barback was a kind, grandma type who couldn’t recommend a drink because she stopped drinking years ago. A plethora of interesting characters: guy playing pool with a feather in his hat, stocking capped hipster unable to blend in, voluptuous woman spilling drinks and out of her blouse. Ollie’s was entertaining! As we were leaving, the bouncer invited us back on the last Saturday in November for her birthday pajama party. David Harrower, mark your calendar for a research expedition!