The House Theatre of Chicago presents
THIEVES LIKE US
At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division
Written by Damon Kiely
Based on the novel by Edward Anderson
Directed by Kimberly Senior
Thru October 30th
Running time: One hour and fifty-five minutes includes a ten minute intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
An inmate is in the right place at the right time and spontaneously escapes from prison. The two masterminds of the jailbreak recruit him to their bank robbing gang. Through the power of the media, the newbie is signaled out and gains fame as the notorious leader. The House Theatre of Chicago presents THIEVES LIKE US, based on the novel by Edward Anderson. Bowie joins Chicamaw and T-Dub on the road to easy money. Along the route, he meets and falls for Keechie, the daughter of a con. Keechie wants him to go legit. Bowie is perplexed with loving a woman, owing a pal and lusting the take. To put his anguish to music, a torch singer pops up throughout the action to sing a soulful melody. THIEVES LIKE US is “Brother, Where Art Thou” meets “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” with sporadic visits from Susan Boyle.
The House has split the theatre space in half with seats on either side and the action in the center. Catwalks circle the stage to add an interesting dimension to a scene. Throughout the show, lights and sound (Charlie Cooper and Christopher Kriz) combine to create the
illusion of old-fashion photographs being shot. This imagery, along with costumes by Alison Siple, helps establish a depression era setting. Siple skillfully uses black and white striped prison garb, a variety of suits and hats and a long flowing white evening gown to add visual intrigue to a sparse stage. Under the direction of Kimberly Senior, the pace flows like a well-orchestrated heist. Senior has the cast mime the ‘get away’ car escapes with synchronized acceleration as the newspaper reading chorus walk by to show movement. The only speed bump slowing the capers’ velocity is the sudden appearance of the torch singer in the road. Beth Sagal makes intermittent appearances in the show like a mysterious escapee from a 1940’s nightclub. Sure, her singing is so beautiful it seems lip synced but her presence is odd. It’s the Susan Boyle dilemma.
Leading the laughs, Shawn Pfautsch (Chicamaw) is hilarious as the whiskey-swilling, squeaky-voiced thief. ‘I like two things: the drink and women. There aren’t enough women so I’m drinking.’ Playwright Damon Kiely has penned some clever moments in a familiar story. THIEVES LIKE US is a light and frothy gangster movie. The story is a little more Apple- Dumpling-Gang than Al Capone with funny dialogue and good acting. There is a dramatic shoot-out scene but the bed probably had it coming. An entertaining show, THIEVES LIKE US might steal your heart without a ticket price that robs you blind.
A wanted man in the theatre community, Rick describes the show with “incredible exploding bed.”