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Wednesday, December 13

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Theater Fri Nov 08 2013

Good Thing at The Poor Theatre: Uneven Plot Needs Work

The Chicago premiere of Good Thing by Jessica Goldberg, directed by Will Crouse, opens the Poor Theatre's second season. Unfortunately both the script and the performances need more work.

Good Thing is about two kitchens and two married couples. The set by Isabel Strauss is well done with the two settings effectively separated by lighting (designed by Danny Osburn).

GoodThing-GB.jpg

Kelleher and Fisher. Justin Barbin Photography.

Living in the neat, modern kitchen are the Roys, John (Doug Schuetz) and Nancy (Melonie Collmann), both high school counselors in upstate New York. He works at the local high school and she works with inner-city students. They've been married 20 years and are having some problems--brought on by his drinking and infidelity and their inability to have children. There are hints that his infidelity was with a student but that is never clarified.

The other kitchen (not neat and modern) belongs to a young couple plus one--a younger brother and meth addict. Dean (Dillon Kelleher), a construction worker, apparently keeps the home together. His very pregnant wife Mary (Abbey Smith) also is a meth addict. She is in such a perilous state that she's locked in her room while Dean is gone; and she's guarded by Bobby (Michael Medford), the brother meth addict. (Do we see any problems with that plan? This is one of many plot devices that keep the script from working.)

Liz (Alex Fisher), a former student of John's and ex-girlfriend of Dean's, brings more problems to these two unhappy homes. The Roys meet Liz, a college dropout returned to her hometown, working in a shoe store. Nancy is immediately suspicious of her admiration of John as a counselor. In a later meeting, John confides to Liz about his marital problems; she decides she can help. (This confession of marital problems to a former student/client seems highly unprofessional.)

It turns out that Liz dated Dean in high school and they drank, read poetry and talked about philosophy. Given the way Dean lives now, this intellectual past seems far-fetched. Dean, it seems, was a brilliant student (he brags about his SAT scores); instead of going to college, he became a construction worker supporting two meth addicts.

Liz and Dean reunite in a bar, have many drinks, and go to her place to have sex. Then they inexplicably go to Dean's house together, where Mary is about to give birth. After the birth, Liz decides she can help everyone (including herself) by persuading Dean and Mary, who don't seem ready to raise a child, to give their new baby to the Roys. The whole bunch--Liz, parents, baby, meth addict brother--go to the Roys' house. The baby handoff fails when Dean and Mary decide they do love and want to raise the baby. That is the one "good thing." Many loose ends are still there as the play ends.

Schuetz' performance lacks the warmth and personality needed to be the effective counselor he is said to be. Kelleher has a difficult part to play because he sometimes has to seem quiet and thoughtful and at other times volatile; the two parts don't mesh. Collman as his wife and Fisher as Liz perform well. Abbey Smith did a credible job playing the lead recently in Other People's Money at Shattered Globe. Her performance here as a pregnant meth addict requires much more dramatic character changes and she sometimes overdoes it,

Playwright Goldberg trained at New York University and the Juilliard School; she has won several awards. This is her fourth play.

Good Thing by the Poor Theatre runs just under two hours with intermission. You can see it through November 16 at The Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge Ave. Performances are at 8pm; performance days vary. Tickets are $15 and can be ordered online.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

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By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
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Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

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