Review “Season on the Line” (The House Theatre): Art imitating Art

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 Permalink 0

get-attachmentThe House Theatre of Chicago presents the World Premiere of SEASON ON THE LINE.

Playwright Shawn Pfautsch tells the tale of one man’s obsession with a whale.   No, it’s not Captain Ahab but it is “Moby Dick.”  The man possessed is the artistic director of Bad Settlement Theatre Company.  Pfautsch dissects the inner-workings of a theatre company.  As Bad Settlement attempts to produce three plays for its new season, the revered artistic director (played with palpable intensity by Thomas J. Cox) fixates on the final play.  His creative infatuation becomes all-consuming as he seizes other play’s resources for his project.

Pfautsch’s play is clever.  The dialogue is sharp.  The characters are distinct.  Under Jess McLeod’s slick direction, the terrific eighteen member cast smoothly transition from scene to scene.  McLeod takes us behind the curtain to see a play’s operating system.  Ty Olwin (Narrator) and Andy Lutz (Peter) amusingly show the importance of a quick wardrobe change.  In another scene, the unflappable Maggie Kettering (Day) illustrates the essential yet thankless job of a stage manager.  Later, an affected Lutz portrays the zaniness of a director in rehearsal.  The glimpse into the construction of a theatre season is interesting.  Seeing conception to production to cast party gives us an intimate look at all the creative forces at play in a play.  It’s definitely the insider’s perspective.  And the audience members laughing hardest are the theatre community itself.

I’m perplexed with an ongoing quandary.  I keep asking myself:  Is this the theatre season of the inside joke?  Already in the 2014-2015 season, art is less about imitating life and more about imitating art. The Hypocrites mounted their 12 hour Greek adventure.  Sideshow gave the audience the bird with their Chekhov adaptation.  And now The House exposes the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of a play.  All these current efforts have a clubhouse feel.  The exclusive vibe generates a new creative elitism.  The shows aren’t about entertaining the public.  They are about entertaining the theatre community.

Pfautsch uses a narrator and a critic to help the audience connect to this underworld of lighting cues, ticket sales and actors’ interpretations.  An effervescent Olwin introduces the theatrical procedures and the passionate human foundation that provide the structure for the show to go on.  And the outstanding Sean Sinitski (Arthur) delivers sharp-tongued critiques of these plays’ openings.  For two of the plays, the theatre company is reading the review on their phones. Sinitski’s pompous tone is really their interpretation of his intent.  Later, in an exchange with Olwin, a vulnerable Sinitski is struggling with how he will review “Moby Dick.”  He perfectly illustrates the theatrical Catch-22!  Theatre should be innovative art to generate tickets sale.  Without the public’s support, a theatre company will cease to exist.

I highly recommend SEASON ON THE LINE for actors, designers, directors and playwrights. You are the target audience and will be hysterically entertained.  I somewhat recommend SEASON ON THE LINE for the general public.  Your engagement will be similar to watching a painter paint or a writer write. You will be amused for a while but you won’t completely get the inside jokes.  And this exclusion will reinforce why some of us prefer to experience the art after it has been created.

Running Time:  Three hours and thirty minutes includes a ten minute delayed start and two intermissions

At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division

Written by Shawn Pfautsch

Directed by Jess McLeod

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm

Sundays and Mondays at 7pm

Thru October 26th

Buy Tickets at www.housetheatre.com

Production photo by  Michael Brosilow

For more information and reviews on Chicago theatre, visit Theatre in Chicago.

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