"The Casuals" (Jackalope Theatre): Intriguing Story Needs More Combustibility

"The Casuals" (Jackalope Theatre):  Intriguing Story Needs More Combustibility

Jackalope Theatre Company, in association with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs with Special Events, presents the World Premiere of THE CASUALS.

A Military secret op is the very epitome of drama.  Playwrights Chance Bone and Andrew Burden Swanson debut their take on the personal side of atom bomb testing.  They tell the story about classified information from the perspective of a beloved military DJ.  Richard, the pseudo war celebrity, struggles to find and hide the truth.  The underlying story is intriguing.  Bone and Swanson ambitiously mingle Richard’s past and present.  Some of the details are muddled in the time travel.  The lies get confusing as Bone and Swanson have multiple time periods:  fifteen years ago, maybe ten years ago, now, now plus a couple days.  The audience is left to piece together a timeline based on the ages of Richard’s grown nephew and Richard’s neighbor kid. 

Along with the burden of timeframe are the secrets themselves.  Are they top secrets?  Is there a real danger associated with disclosure?  At some points, the threat is present.  Under the direction of Jonathan Berry, the confrontation between Bradley Grant Smith (Les) and Ed Dzialo (Richard) is pivotal in establishing the risk.  Smith shuts down Dzialo’s line of questions with controlled resignation.  This scene shows a baffled Dzialo awakening to the truth.  It’s powerfully effective.  Later, a stern Norm Woodel (Officer) also educates Dzialo on government protocol.  These parts of the story are volatile and riveting.

It’s the secondary storylines that don’t quite ring true to the threat, imagined or real.  Dzialo is entertaining his newly married nephew and wife.  He is also wooing the single mom next door.  The additional characters build a façade of ‘normalcy’ on the fringe of an atom bomb test site.  The idea of ordinary people living in the 1950s Nevada testing area is mindboggling.  There is a sweet simplicity, especially in the newlyweds (charmingly played by Morgan Maher and Ellie Reed), in these midcentury households. When this ‘Pleasantville’ world collides with the government subterfuge, the intended explosion doesn’t happen.  The intensity is missing.  The detonation triggers a ‘poof’ instead of a ‘bang.’  The story elements need to join together with stronger combustibility.

With more heat and higher stakes, THE CASUALS could be a memorable blast.     

Running Time:  Two hours and fifteen minutes includes an intermission

At DCASE Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph

Written by Chance Bone and Andrew Burden Swanson

Directed by Jonathan Berry

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays at 7:30pm

Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm

Thru July 28th

Buy Tickets at www.jackalopetheatre.org

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