OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Jackalope Theatre's 'The Casuals' a stilted stage story without connection

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-07-13T00:00:00Z 2013-07-13T01:53:12Z OFFBEAT: Jackalope Theatre's 'The Casuals' a stilted stage story without connectionBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Jackalope Theatre Company, in association with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, are teamed up to present the run of "The Casuals," a stage world premiere at The Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph St. in Chicago.

Co-written by Chance Bone and Andrew Burden Swanson and directed by Jonathan Berry, it's playing through July 28.

"The Casuals" is set in 1955, and centers on a once-beloved military radio host Richard Hughes, played as a rather lost and muddled soul by actor Ed Dzialo. He is trapped by the thin line he must walk between a secret from the past he's spent 15 years covering up and his profession that demands ultimate secrecy. As the play opens, Richard is paid a visit by young couple Tom and Jessica, cardboard performances by Morgan Maher and Ellie Reed, who are newlyweds who seem to barely know each, while still knowing each other well enough for Jessica to suddenly announce she is pregnant.

Told as two stories staged with back and forth flashbacks, it's easy to become confused as the plot introduces a number of elements, ranging from Richard's drinking, to military tragedy to tape recorded interviews to a pinata birthday party. Living somewhere nearby are mother and son Lucy, a wooden performance by Somer Benson and Tim, played with over-acting relish by Sam Kurzydlo.

"The Casuals" is billed as: "Exploring the strain of power and the strength of the atom, while exploring paranoia, curiosity and the dire need to hold on to the truth. Does knowledge truly set us free – and is it the responsibility of those with knowledge to share it? Though a white lie is still a lie, what’s best isn’t necessarily the truth."

One of the better and more believable performances comes from actress Emily Casey, who plays Marnie, the devoted military affairs secretary.

However, this two and half hour story never really connects ideas and offer characters too thinly written for anyone to really care about what happened in the past or what might happen next.

The production team for "The Casuals" includes John Wilson for scenic design, Stefin Steberl's costume design, Jess Harpenau's faint lighting design, Thomas Dixon's oddly loud sound design and Eleanor Kahn for props design.

Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for student discount. Curtain Times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Fridays and Saturdays and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays.

FYI: jackalopetheatre.org/tickets or by calling (773) 340-2543.

"The Casuals" is made possible in part by The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

Chicago Cultural Center Presents is an ongoing performing arts series that showcases both emerging and established music, theater, dance and multi-disciplinary artists at the Chicago Cultural Center and other venues. Dedicated to capacity building in the arts, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events hires the artists and provides performance space as well as technical and marketing support.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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