Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Theatre Review: Lakefront Property
(The following review initially appeared in the Nov. 23 Pipeline. The Bruised Orange Theater Company's (BOTC) Lakefront Property opens again this Thursday. It's one of the best local shows I've seen in a long time. And the real critics are raving about it too! All Photos are by Cassandra Stadnicki. For hyperlinks, visit the Nov. 23 Pipeline, and scroll waaaay down.
From a glance, a man quarreling with himself on a city street would be dismissed as mentally unstable, crazy even. However, when "Pokey" fights with his longtime imaginary girlfriend, Trisha, in Lakefront Property, the heated exchange brings us closer to Pokey rather than apart. I was reminded of the film Castaway, in which isolation can drive a sane person to substitute imagination for companionship, fantasy for reality.
In Castaway, the sole survivor of a plane crash is stranded on an island, where he develops a deep attachment to a volleyball. In Bruised Orange Theater Company's production of Lakefront Property, Pokey, played by actor Jeff Harris, and Kyla, played by Stephanie Polt, aren't stranded on an island, but they forge relationships with ghosts and imaginary lovers to stave off the loneliness of being single in a big city. Pokey's biggest cheerleader is Trisha, played by actress Ann Sonneville, who coos reassuringly, "You're a young man in the middle of America with a bright, bright future." While it's clear Pokey wants to believe these words, he's keenly aware of his fantastical reality. "But you're not real!" he screams in frustration.
Luckily, Pokey possesses more comic sensibility than self-pity, and the mid-thirty-something can at least venture out to a bar by himself on a Friday night. He meets bartender Kyla, a new transplant to Chicago who coincidentally lives in the same lakefront high-rise building that he does. When Kyla's not working, she alternates between looking out the windows of her apartment, imagining the lives of the people behind the fogged up windows, and snorting cocaine by herself. Well, she's not entirely alone. Kyla's got someone not-real in her life too--an 1880's World's Fair-era ghost named Harold, played by David Bettino, who can get a bit rough when he doesn't get what he wants, which is usually Kyla.
With nearly every word coming out of the actors' mouths propelling this drama forward, I found myself rooting for Pokey and Kyla as J.C. Brooks's rendition of Wilco's I Am Trying to Break Your Heart played during their first moments together in Kyla's apartment. I almost wished it were Papa was a Rodeo by Magnetic Fields, the ultimate ships-meeting-in-the-night song, though that would be too easy, and director Mark Spence's choice of Wilco is spot on, as is playwright Clint Sheffer's decision to not write the ghost and imaginary girlfriend out of the script once Pokey and Kyla meet. Sheffer is also too smart for happy endings, and apparently only capable of crafting a brilliant one, which recalls an earlier fight scene which ended when Pokey held Trisha as she reassured him of his bright, bright future. This time around, Pokey cradles the very real and fragile Kyla while hailing down a cab. At this point it's uncertain that the future will be bright, though the togetherness shared by these two mortal souls feels like a celebration in itself, bright enough for now.
Lakefront Property was initially staged in 2003, per the BOTC blog. It ended an earlier run this past Saturday night. It returns to the renamed Wicker Park Arts Center (formerly Acme Arts Works), 2215 W. North, Thursday, Dec. 2, at 8 PM, and runs Thu-Sun through Dec. 18. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased online at the BOTC site, or by calling 773-336-2682. --Alisa Hauser