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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Theater Thu Nov 25 2010

Redeemers Serves Up a Healthy Dose of Black Humor at Ranalli's Pizzeria


Pictured: (in the background) Pat King (Nick), Marsha Harman (Mercy) and Joel Ewing (Abel) in the foreground.
Photo by Tom McGrath of TCMcG Photography.

Tucked away in a cozy, Christmas-y back room at Lincoln Park pizzeria Ranalli's, Redeemers-- a site-specific one-act-- delivers an intimate, occasionally delightful story of inter-office politics gone terribly wrong. The story is told to us by the three colleagues who started it all by means of a sort of desperate, ill-prepared confession.

New Leaf Theatre's current production of Redeemers, written by Bilal Dardai and directed by Jessica Hutchinson, opens subtly as audience members (of which the room can fit only about a dozen) gradually realize there are actors sitting amongst them, who are acting. The actors in this case are Pat King and Joel Ewing (playing Nick and Abel, respectively). They're not doing much at first, per se, but the way they kind of glare at each other from across the room and exchange sporadic quips and insights as they sip their drinks is just perfect.

On that note, before I get any further, I must mention that the acting in this performance, paired with moments of killer dialogue, really makes this play work. Ewing and Marsha Harman (playing a sassy colleague of Nick and Abels' named Mercy) particularly seemed to tickle last Sunday's audience-- Mercy with her clever, cutting stabs at Nick and Abel with his deceivingly goofy responses to Nick's panic and his sly metatheatre wisecracks. (And yes, metatheatre is a word, although whether I'm using it correctly is up for debate.)

Redeemers is most interesting when considered stylistically. Actors speak to audience members as if they are fellow drinkers at the bar, making eye contact and often sharing their tables. Action slips from direct story-telling to flashbacks and back in what would be a pretty seamless transition were it not for Abel calling it out.

"Oh, wait. What? Are we doing some sort of flashback here?", he exclaims at one point as he appears to bust at the seams with laughter from the silliness of having to act scenes out for us to appease Nick and Mercy, all in keeping with the whole immersive, "breaking the third wall" thing.

There is a storyline in Redeemers. A moral, even. It starts with the three employees and the strange ways they went about "testing" their calm and collected boss's limits, and how it didn't really work out for them. There are bits of sex, drugs and rock and roll worked into the story to appeal to our sensational tendencies. There are plenty of emotional outbursts and poetic monologues, delivered powerfully by Pat King. Themes touched on include the essence of storytelling itself, anthropology, trust, friendship, hating your boss, being a dick and trying to buy forgiveness, among other things. But the progression of the story is surprisingly one of the less interesting aspects of play, really-- especially the unfolding of the relatively anti-climactic climax.

You know what, though? That's okay. It's still good.

Go to Redeemers for a unique and intimate theater experience, jammed with clever dialogue and delightfully black humor. Stick around afterward for some damn good baked clams and pizza. You really can't go wrong, here.

Redeemers is playing through Dec. 19 at Rocco Ranalli's Cafe and Pizzeria: 1925 N. Lincoln Ave.; Mondays through Thursdays (except tonight) at 7:30pm and Sundays at 6pm. Tickets are $15 suggested donation & one drink minimum.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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