When television royalty Carol Burnett agreed to return to the medium after a decade departure, she opted for a short 30-minute series and an entirely new format.
Titled "Carol & Company," she selected an anthology approach, with each week showcasing her cast of regular actors and actors playing new and dual roles in a fresh storylines. The series, which aired on NBC was a ratings success. However, the first episode aired March 1, 1990 and the final episode was July 1, 1991, with Burnett then opting to return to her more familiar hour-long variety show format. Her reason for the change was that doing an anthology with varying, always changing characters played by the same actors and actresses was difficult, when done well, and to accomplish a full-story arc in a 30-minute window, was even more pressing. (While riding the ratings wave, she was wooed to return to her original home network, CBS, and even the same studio space, in fact, to resurrect her former popular variety show for a 12th season, which then waned in ratings.)
Sideshow Theatre Company Chicago premiere of the darkly comic drama "The Golden Dragon" by Roland Schimmelpfennig, playwright of the Sideshow's 2012 Jeff Award-winning production "Idomeneus," tackles this same anthology idea in just under an hour showcasing several characters and crossover storylines.
It's not an easy feat.
With translation by David Tushingham, it's directed by Artistic Director Jonathan L. Green and Marti Lyons and runs until Feb. 23 at Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago, where Sideshow is kicking off its multi-year residency.
"The Golden Dragon" features Sideshow ensemble member Matt Fletcher with David Lawrence Hamilton, Daria Harper, Deanna Myers and Noah Sullivan.
The story is set on a warm summer evening at The Golden Dragon, where the staff serves Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine to strangers who pass through its doors. Next door, there is a convenience store and its curious proprietor and upstairs, a warehouse containing an unspeakable secret. As the evening progresses, the stories of the Dragon's patrons and staff slowly unravel and intertwine, with all the shock, intrigue and danger of the international city at their core.
This show didn't work for me in the way that leaves the most impact. The cast is talented, but the characters and story lines feel under-developed. I never found myself caring too much about any of the identities I met during the one-hour race.
The production team for "The Golden Dragon" includes: William Boles (scenic design), Kristin DeiTos (costume design), John Kelley (lighting design), Sideshow artistic associate Christopher M. LaPorte (sound design/original music), Arianna Soloway (props coordinator), Alison McLeod and Brittany Parlor (stage managers) and Aaron Shapiro (production manager).
Tickets for the preview performances are $10 in advance or "pay-what-you-can" at the door. Tickets for the regular run are $20 to $25. FYI: victorygardens.org or (773) 871-3000 or sideshowtheatre.org.