Review “The Writer” (Steep Theatre): Unexpected and Thought-Provoking!

Friday, August 18, 2023 Permalink 0

Steep Theatre presents the U.S. Premiere of THE WRITER.

This show is THE essences of a live theatrical performance. Its premise centers on the dynamic relationship between writer and director. Each struggles to shape the narrative through their own lens. Their perspectives are anchored in position of influence, experience and gender. Playwright Ella Hickson isn’t straightforward in her storytelling. She zigs and zags. And the lines are very blurry. A scene ends abruptly. The audience is left wondering did that happen onstage or in the writer’s head. Is this a play-within-a-play onstage? Or is this the playwright’s real life offstage? Is it interconnected? Or is it all the playwright’s fanciful imagination? Hickson guts a play and pulls out the messy innards for introspection.

This show is truly unexpected and thought-provoking! Since the experience relies on a certain  amount of surprise, I’m purposely not describing the show in any detail. Hickson writes passionate dialogue with sexual politics percolating under every word and action. She also peppers the drama with witty one liners or wildly absurd utterances. It’s a fine balance between drama and comedy. Hickson’s script is a true original … and so timely in this summer’s Barbie revolution.

Director Georgette Verdin takes the script and makes it real… and sometimes surreal. Verdin keeps the tension tight in multiple face-offs. Krystal Ortiz and Nate Faust, Lucy Carapeytan and Peter Moore, Faust and Carapeytan share angry and sometimes awkward exchanges. The conversations hit uncomfortable levels. It’s provocative! The frenzied implosions are embarrassingly personal. The audience is tethered to the emotional and sexual intimacy. The engagement level lands somewhere between concerned bystander and peeping tom.       

Each of the ensemble gets the opportunity to showcase real range. Ortiz starts out as a spitfire, moves into schoolgirl and ends up almost a smart ass. Faust is first smug and off-putting and later insecure and bullying. He shifts personas effortlessly by taking off his scarf and donning an apron. Although Moore delivers a primarily pompous portrayal, he exudes elegant confidence in a backdrop moment perfectly lit by Designer Brandon Wardell. A fierce Carapeytan gives an authentic and tireless performance. She goes from unraveling to breaking open in a searing monologue. In that scene, she is joined by Ortiz, Jodi Gage and Allyce Torres for a gorgeous tribal dance (movement directed by Claire Bauman).       

THE WRITER is a shimmering example of why we go to the theatre. It’s unexpected! It drags us out of our lives and onto the relentless quest of a writer trying to create art.   

Running Time: Two hours and fifteen minutes includes an intermission

At The Edge Theatre, 5451 N. Broadway Street

Written by Ella Hickson

Directed by Georgette Verdin

Performances are:

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm

Sundays at 3pm

Thru September 16th

For more information or tickets

Production photos by Randall Starr

For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago

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