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Theater Sat Feb 23 2013

Critic's Choice: Completeness at Theater Wit

Of course it's complicated; it always is. It's the thing that no one really understands, no matter how much poetry they write, drunk karaoke songs they sing, or first dates they go on. It's a thing that most everyone wants but doesn't know how to get and is even more in the dark on how to hold on to. It's about chances and taking them. It is what it is.

It, of course, is love, and it is what Theater Wit's impressive new show Completeness serves up on a biologist's table for us to dissect. Written by Itamar Moses, Completeness is a modern take on the state of romantic relationships, more specifically, the rationalizations people make about their love lives. It's about smart people in love and lust and having sex and breaking up.

The show centers on Elliot played by Matt Holzfeind -- who does an excellent job of making the audience fall in love with him (then kinda disliking him). Elliot is a brilliant and neurotic graduate student in computer science. He is both charmingly open and brazenly self-centered. We love him, we hate him. We want him to be happy, we don't care.

Elliot is originally dating Lauren (played by Rae Gray who gets my vote for best name ever). Of course, their relationship is complicated and gets even more so when he meets a first year graduate student named Molly (Kristina Valada-Viars). Through Molly we learn about yeast and proteins and sex and there is a nude scene.

Everyone is talking about their feelings in this very intense yet somehow disconnected and apathetic way and I couldn't help but think: damn, this is exactly how my friends think about love. The characters in Completeness sometimes have these really big chunks of dialogue about Traveling Salesmen, heartache, love, mice, and feelings. Usually in a show the audience is all like, "oh long dialogue chunk, #bored" but these characters are psychoanalyzing their problems in this really enrapturing and real-time way. These dialogue exchanges show that Moses has a real understanding of making a moment, which is all we really want from a good show.

At intermission a woman in front of me said something to the effect of "I guess it's about, like, even really smart people are stupid in love." I couldn't agree more; with smart people, there is just more processing involved.

The show's narrative is made more interesting and interconnected by the set design. Seriously, the set was amazing. It was very clean and simple, but had all these intricate light patterns like a motherboard. I think [redacted] must have sponsored this show because there were like six of their computers (hey, [redacted] isn't paying me for product placement). They used the space brilliantly, having components that folded up into each other and that could be pulled out; it was IKEA for the stage. The whole production was a great marriage of writing, acting, set, producing and all the other stuff that goes into it that I don't know about.

The only thing that kind of jolted me out of the show was a very #meta part that I don't know needed to be there. The whole show is this big mathematical analysis of millennial love and detachment and I don't think the audience necessarily needed to be thrown out of it. I understand why they made that choice, to give us a break from all our computations, but the writing and acting were so interesting that I didn't need to second guess it.

Completeness is about presenting thought through perspectives on love and dating -- these things are not always pretty or simple. There's a moment in the show where Elliot says something like, "She was just a rebound that went on too long" and at least three people around me and I let out an audible hmmph, meaning Oh no you didn't. People don't say those things even if they are true! It's just not nice.

And that's where Completeness hit me the most; the show says things people are thinking but don't necessarily want/know how to verbalize. Through the show, we realize that we talk about things in metaphors and that is both interesting and sad and well, complicated. We feel all the feelings and package them in metaphors. This is what Completeness gives us: a better understanding of our own metaphors.

Completeness runs through March 24 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Show times are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets are $18-$36. For tickets and information, visit or call 773.975.8150.

Follow me on Twitter: @Ty_e_


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Feature Wed Oct 07 2015

Outgoing Signal: A Grateful Essay About the End of a Theater Company

By Johnny Knight

Tonight I witnessed the beginning of the end. Signal Ensemble Theatre, the company whose productions I've photographed more than any other, announced that this season will be their last.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Oct 02 2015

The Walk, The Martian, 99 Homes, Mississippi Grind, Prophet's Prey, Shanghai & Partisan

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