LiveWire Chicago presents
At DCA Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph
Written by Emily Dendinger
Directed by Jessica Hutchinson
Thru September 26th
Running Time: Two hours and fifteen minutes includes a ten minute intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Romanticists and lovers share wine and poetry at a Switzerland villa. Prolonged rainstorms quarantine the group inside where the essences for a timeless manuscript come to life… Frankenstein. LiveWire Chicago presents the world premiere of HIDEOUS PROGENY. Playwright Emily Dendinger imagines the historical vacation shared by the renowned writers in 1818. Lord Byron has exiled himself from England to escape his numerous sexual scandals. Percy Shelley is running from his estranged wife with his eighteen year old girlfriend, Mary Goodwin. Eventually to be Percy’s second wife, Mary is with child AND pregnant AND mourning the loss of their first daughter. Joining the summer retreat is Claire Clairmont. Claire is also pregnant and sexual partners with Bryon and Percy. It’s a modern-day-ratings- busting reality show when the celebrities of the time period go on holiday together. Despite the limitless dramatics unfolding around her, Mary Shelley goes horror fiction by conceiving the legendary monster, Frankenstein. LiveWire Chicago’s HIDEOUS PROGENY imagines the famous tryst that gave birth to a repulsive creature. Thunderstorms, child’s death, swamp swimming, frogs, random happenings provide an interesting glimpse at a writer under the influence.
As the monster maker, Hilary Williams (Mary) balances between being a writer and supporting a writer. The daughter of a feminist novelist and the lover of a philandering poet, Williams is effectively distraught over self-containment and group housing. The connection between Williams and John Taflan (Byron) is an exchange of intellectual barbs. Taflan’s bored and pompous Byron portrayal switches to hints of mentorship over Mary’s abilities. The chemistry between Williams and Taflan is purely academic. For a villa-full of romantics and lovers, somebody forgot to pack the passion. Danielle O’Farrell (Claire) injects lively animation as the wanted-unwanted houseguest. In a secondary love plot, Pat King (Polidori), channeling James Spader in Stargate, courts the French accented maid Madeline Long (Elise) in a perfectly awkward flirtation.
The premise for HIDEOUS PROGENY is a fascinating notion of writers and lovers in collaboration and opposition. Playwright Emily Dendinger pens the dialogue between writers with formality and familiarity. My favorite line is Mary teasing Byron with ‘did you just quote yourself?’ These playful humanity moments are sparse and the prose goes wordy. For all the shocking offspring conceived, there is a lack of sexual sizzle. In addition, a series of short end scenes prolongs the finish. The one with sheet draping over furniture almost elicits premature applause. HIDEOUS PROGENY is purely academic! It’s a historical literature lesson that invoked me to read more about the tragic lives of these creative geniuses.
A self-proclaimed romantic having just returning from his Barcelona honeymoon, Joshua Volkers describes the show with ‘not my favorite.’
Production photo courtesy of John W. Sisson, Jr.
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
Choking on The Loop’s inexpensive dinner offerings, we return to Elephant & Castle, 185 N. Wabash. Not quite a hideous progeny, its attractiveness is primarily based on its proximity to DCA Storefront Theatre. The menu is English pub food served in a shiny, wooded bar with entrée prices ranging from $15 to $25 for fish & chips or Sheppard’s pie. Josh and I both opt for the less expensive sandwich choices. Even with the cheaper food alternatives with the addition of our drinks, the bill becomes a hideous progeny. We pay the monster to go meet Frankenstein’s mother.