Review "LET X": Big Old Story Problem!

If the train leaves the station with 3 men and 3 women, and 3 of those people wear glasses, and 2 of the people are the same person, what is the probability that 1 of the couples had sex on the platform.  Back in the day, these type of arithmetic scenarios  multiplied my anxiety to the second power.  Nothing Special Productions presents LET X.  David is a character in a play.  He is a playwright’s creation.  He is married to Christine but wants to be with Lilly.  So, his character becomes a playwright named X and attempts to rewrite the play.  It’s a play within a play with characters changing character.  A stagehand tries to keep it organized but as the train is speeding to a conclusion, all the switching makes for a bumpy ride. LET X is a big old story problem.

READ ON OR LISTEN to Audio Podcast at ITUNES Chicago Theatre Reviews for Week of July 1st Narrated by Joshua Volkers

Playwright Gwydion Suilebhan creates a complicated writers’ fantasy.  It’s a play where the characters become so real that they direct their own storyline.  Literally, a rogue character initiates a hostile takeover of the plot from the playwright.  Suilebhan adds in mathematical elements to add a layer of structure and humor.  The combination is a clever idea.  It’s just too much of a clever thing!  On one side of the equation, there are actors, writers and a stagehand bucking their designated roles. Creative treason! On the other side, train schedules are an object of obsession. Passionate calculations!  The sum of both is a fraction or two short of making the show whole. The audience is confused!  It’s reminiscent of my high school algebra class.  Covered in chalk dust with his back to the class, Mr. McNally would be frantically and excitedly solving a problem. His personal math- party-for-one!  The class always got lost in his division.
Under the direction of Robert Quinlan, the talented ensemble brings humorous interpretation to the story problem.  In the lead, Celeste Burns (Stagehand) hilariously deadpans annoyance.  As the one remaining constant, Burns capably argues for order in the show.  Alas, she’s only playing a character in a play about a play gone off the rails. A delightful addition, Burns can’t solve the overall equation. As the rebel with a cause, Brian Rohde (X) is equivalent to Paul Giamatti being cast as the lead in “Stranger than Fiction.”  An animated Rohde brings a quirky energy to the comedy.  

This is definitely an identity farce.  The jokes are there! They just aren’t all onboard the train leaving the station. With a little more definition of content direction, Suilebhan’s witty dialogue can be enjoyed. I love the line ‘they are remainders you can’t just get rid of them.’ It’s a funny, math analogy to describe undeveloped characters.  For me, it’s feels like a callback joke to my algebraic angst-filled youth. It IS a little funny but the fraction – fiction fusion doesn’t total success.  I can care about a writer’s struggle to get the intended story out of his characters. I get that! I don’t care to figure out the velocity of a train traveling to its destination.  I’ve got CTA Tracker for that!

Enjoying neighborhood theatre, Scott-dds sums it up with, “Playwright, it’s complicated!”
Running Time:  One hour and fifteen minutes with no intermission
At Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway
Written by Gwydion Suilebhan
Directed by Robert Quinlan
Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays at 8pm
Thru July 20th
Buy Tickets


Leave a comment