Bill did it in the woods with his belt. Vanessa did it in the kitchen with a chopping board. Kevin did it by the river with his bare hands. Imagine if the family from August: Osage County played the game Clue and you have the basis for Scott Woldman’s new play. It’s a combination of dark comedy and psychological thriller.
Woldman dumps the box of puzzle pieces on the table and forces the audience to put it together. Here’s the wrinkle; not all the pieces are for this puzzle. He uses a series of interviews and reenactments to explain what may have happened. Reality and fiction get twisted together as multiple ‘what if’ angles are presented. Eric Leonard (Deputy) acts as a narrator. He navigates Lynne Baker (Lindsey) through the unsolved disappearance case of Ellie (played by Kathryn Acosta). On the side of the stage in his office, Leonard sets up the scene in his conversation to Baker. Then, the talented ensemble takes centerstage collectively, individually or paired up to act out the scenario.
Director Scott Westerman keeps the drama tight and the humor edgy. Kathy Scambiatterra (Joanne) and Julian Hester (Kevin) are once again a terrific dysfunctional mother-son pairing. (I loved them in “Les Parents Terribles”) Scambiatterra is hilariously protective of the eerily, fragile Hester. As he walks around in a daze, the grounded Scambiatterra shifts into mama bear mode. By contrast, she comically shuns her son Doug (played by Jae K. Renfrow). A resigned Renfrow plays family punching bag perfectly.
Woldman has written great characters. Under Westerman’s direction, they come to life with quirky flourish. An emasculated Chuck Spencer (Bill) tries to discuss his theories on generational trends. A caustic Kristin Collins (Vanessa) accuses everyone of not caring about Ellie. And a haunting Hester keeps quietly reiterating his story. It’s a big bundle of personalities and the challenge is to find the truth within the crazy accusations.
The violence (fight choreography by Acosta and Hester) is pretty intense. In one swirling reenactment sequence, Acosta is killed several times by several different people. Even though I knew it wasn’t real, I was still holding my breath. Nod out to Acosta’s unflinching endurance.
INTERROGATION will keep you guessing until the end. Throughout the show, I was continually musing other scenarios simultaneously as the reenactments played out. I love a good mystery. And I especially love solving the mystery before the end of a show or book. I didn’t with this one. I left the show with that very satisfying feeling of didn’t-see-it-coming. I want to see INTERROGATION again for its Sixth Sense quality.
Running Time: Two hours includes an intermission
At The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand
Written by Scott Woldman
Directed by Scott Westerman
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru March 20th
Reserve seats at www.theartistichome.org
Production photo by Tim Knight
For more information and reviews on Chicago theatre, visit Theater in Chicago.