Monday, September 1

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Contest: Win Tickets to See The Bachelor Weekend Death-Defying Acts Doesn't Live Up to Its Risky Promise »

Theatre Tue Apr 29 2014

Lay My Down Softly Packs a Punch

Lay Me Down Softly
(left to right) Dan Waller, Carolyn Klein, Michael Grant and Jamie L. Young in Lay Me Down Softly Photo by Emily Schwartz.

Playwright Billy Roche weaves a rough and intricate character study in Lay Me Down Softly, presented in its gristly, sawdust-laden glory by the Seanachaí Theatre Company through May 25.

Delaney's Traveling Roadshow hits every Irish countryside skid with its troupe of fake bearded ladies, fake rifle ranges, and the high-profit item of fake boxing ring challenges. It's the 1960s — somewhere else in the world, anyway. But for Theo (Jeff Christian) and his dysfunctional troupe of fools, the last 50 years never happened.

Theo is a real brute — and proud of it. Blisteringly portrayed by Christian, one's imagination doesn't have to go far to see a few manslaughters in his past, and perhaps a few in his future. It's all about Theo, and he never lets anyone is his metaphorical or physical grip forget that yes, indeed it is all about Theo — and Theo's money. He's a one-man reign of terror, except with girlfriend Lilly (Carolyn Klein). It's not that Lilly is his tender spot, it's that Lilly is his female equivalent. Lily is a woman who uses her sexual power against anyone dumb and lonely enough to be responsive to her, particularly Dean (Matthew Isler), the tomato can who steps into the ring with the roadshow's townie attendees paying for the privilege to test their longevity against a "real boxer" such as the perpetually sexually inappropriate Dean. Theo is an evil, jealous man, who rules with his real live iron fist, Dean taking most of the poundings that flow through this tale. Though Theo threatens Lilly with beatings for her infidelities and her petty thefts from the nightly take, Lilly stands proud, goading Theo publicly to "be a real man" and hit her, if only so she can lay waste to him. The voice of reason/Greek Chorus is Peadar (Michael Grant, bringing quiet sublime to the order-in-chaos role), who counsels and consoles the troupe members, wrapping bandages, be those bandages physical or emotional.

It's all ordinary and everyday, only the towns change, when the roadshow finally comes full circle, and finds itself close enough to the sunspot that is Emer (Jaime Lynne Young), Theo's late-teens daughter who shows up for some purpose — to see her father... to take something... to verify her mother's recounts. Theo sees Emer as an extra set of hands, Lilly sees Emer as a threat, not to her romantic relationship with Theo (because there really isn't any romance) but Lilly ominously senses "the girl" as a threat to the money being made — they're making it, and here comes trouble in the form of back child support, which Theo has no shame publicly proclaiming that money was the reason he left baby Emer and her mother by the side of the road years before, with Paedar pulling a double shift as Emer's mother's comforter and Theo's getaway from familial responsibility. Grant subtlely portrays Paedar as a man sickened with guilt for his activities all through the years, and his memory is long.

While Lilly flits and flings around the Roadshow, working Theo into a jealous rage, Emer sets her sites for Junior (Dan Waller — who's done amazing work in supporting roles for several years in Chicago theater, and I'm looking forward to seeing him in front-and-center roles). Junior was once a real boxer, and a damned good one, but a foot injury sidelined him. Of course what comes with the love of a good woman? Her encouragement. Emer reminds Junior that he still has the moves, the stamina and the youth to fight the good fight in the ring — and anywhere he chooses. Why be a sparring partner to dumb talentless Dean when Junior could get back in the ring and rule?

Opportunity presents itself when a has-been but true professional boxer shows up night after night to beat the brakes off Dean. Dean ain't no professional and these nightly pugilistic disasters are costing the roadshow big money in payouts. Emer, with the help of Paedar, convinces Theo to give Junior a chance: let a real boxer, even with a foot injury, fight a real boxer. Lilly is enraged at Theo for going along with Paedar and Emer's suggestion — she wants Emer gone; Lilly can smell that something is not right, and they're going to lose big time with Emer around, she warns Theo once more. The final decision to let Junior back in the ring comes when Dean challenges, well, everyone with vile words dipped in the kelly green of jealousy. He's violently "demoted" to Junior's former position and Junior does his thing in the ring, many times over many evenings — but as Lilly forewarned, the chickens come home to roost for Theo.

John Tovar choreographs the excellent fight scenes that play out well in Joe Schermoly's realistically shanty set design. Eva Breneman's dialect coaching serves to actors well, and they stay in character throughout the tense scenes. Young makes Emer's transformation from the girl of the past into the calculating and confident woman of the present and future so smooth that Dean doesn't know what hit him. Director Kevin Christopher Fox's production is a great reminder that what's abandoned on the side of the road may come back to haunt us when the wind shifts.

Lay Me Down Softly plays through Sunday, May 25 at the Den Theatre, 1334 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets are $26 for Thursday and Friday performances, $30 on Saturdays and Sundays.


Add a Comment

Please enter the letter t in the field below:

Live Comment Preview

Notes & Tags

Items marked with a * are required fields. Please respect each other. We reserve the right to delete any comments borne out of douchebaggery or that deal in asshattery.

Permitted tags and how to use them:

To link: <a href="">Link text</a>
To italicize: <em>Your text</em>
To bold: <strong>Your text</strong>

Theater Wed Aug 13 2014

An Epic, Tragic Win: All Our Tragic

By Benjamin Cannon & Mike Ewing

What then is to be made of the Hypocrites' new stage production, All Our Tragic? This massive opus, comprising all 32 surviving Greek tragedy plays re-written and directed by Sean Graney, lasts a staggering 12 hours, including intermissions and meal breaks. Ben and Mike go the distance.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Aug 29 2014

The November Man, Frank, As Above/So Below, Love Is Strange, Life of Crime, Bound By Flesh, To Be Takei & Me and You

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


An Angry White Guy
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Devening Projects
DIY Film
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Mess Hall
Neoteric Art
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
The Seen
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery



Mon Sep 1 2014
Impress These Apes @ ComedySportz

Mon Sep 1 2014
The Unauthorized "Saved by the Bell" Story @ East Room

Mon Sep 1 2014
Noir City Film Festival @ Music Box

Mon Sep 1 2014
Chicago Fringe Festival

Tue Sep 2 2014
Noir City Film Festival @ Music Box

Wed Sep 3 2014
Noir City Film Festival @ Music Box

Thu Sep 4 2014
Chicago Fringe Festival

Thu Sep 4 2014
Strictly Ballroom @ Millennium Park

Thu Sep 4 2014
Noir City Film Festival @ Music Box

Fri Sep 5 2014
Chicago Fringe Festival

Fri Sep 5 2014
Life Itself @ Film Center

Fri Sep 5 2014
The Hideout Block Party & Onion AV Fest

Fri Sep 5 2014
Luiz Gonzάlez Palma Reception & Exhibit @ Schneider Gallery

Fri Sep 5 2014
Zoovie: Best in Show @ Lincoln Park Zoo

Fri Sep 5 2014
First Friday @ Flat Iron Building

Sat Sep 6 2014
Eugene Sun Park's Film Self Deportation @ Chicago Filmmakers

Sat Sep 6 2014
Filipino Cinema series @ Film Center

Sat Sep 6 2014
Chicago Fringe Festival

Sat Sep 6 2014
Internet Cat Video Festival @ Metro

Sun Sep 7 2014
Chicago Fringe Festival

A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.

About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: LaShawn Williams,
A/C staff inbox:



A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15


Sign up for our free email newsletter I Star Chi and get a weekly round-up of the best of Gapers Block, plus our picks for must-do events each weekend!


Preferred format    Preferred format