Chicago is home to not only a fantastic array of large theater spaces showcasing the talents of actors and actresses from near and far, but also a shining vast selection of gritty storefront theater spaces.
Dream Theatre Company, located in the West Loop at 556 W. 18th St. in Chicago, has the most fitting of performance company names. This small, yet mighty, group of creative minds always "dreams" up imaginative stories to bring to life.
Their latest offering is called "Rio," by artistic director Jeremy Menekseoglu, with the latter also starring in his own work.
It opened on Thursday, Feb. 20, and continues until March 16.
With just a cast of four, it grips and captures a range of emotions for audiences who come face to face with the twisted mind of a serial killer.
Running just 90 minutes, which includes a 15-minute intermission, "Rio" takes its title because the story is set near the Texas and Mexico border.
The lead female character is Mary Graves, a victim of spousal abuse who flees her torment for the uncertainty of an upside-down life without any money or the support of others. Played with depth and substance by young actress Nicole Roberts, this is a character the audience can care about with real concern, a credit to Roberts' performance. Mary finds an unlikely helpful spirit from a hapless drifter named Willy, played by Menekseoglu, who has an uncanny talent for shifting personas (and voices) with precision. Sharing a run-down motel room, as well as each other's problems and passion, the duo find themselves emerged in a world of reckless abandon, both morally and spiritually. Alif Muhammad, who gives the weakest of the four performances, plays an officer investigating a recent series of horrific murders of Mexican immigrants.
The standout performance of this production is actress Candace Kitchens, who plays Beth, a crass, brash motel maid. With a perpetually disheveled appearance in her uniform, topped off by a shock of hair, Kitchens and her letter-perfect performance are worth the price of this ticket. I see plenty of plays, week after week. This is one I would see a second time just because of Kitchens' entertaining turn as Beth.
With a balance of talent, as directed by Laura Gouin and some great costume choices by Megan Merrill, tickets are $10 to $15 at dreamtheatrecompany.com.