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Bethany Review - Where Have All The Saturn Dealerships Gone?

By Noel Schecter

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James D. Farruggio (Charlie)

Tiny in space but never vision, the Gift Theatre Company continues its tradition of punching above its weight with their production of Bethany.  Set in the fiscal calamity of 2009, Bethany introduces a world of almost feral subdivisions where possession is simply a matter of who claims what first.  In this case a vacant home is claimed first by a shell-shock and possibly violent survivalist (Gary who is played well by Paul D. Addario) and then shared with the down on her luck Saturn salesperson Crystal (Hillary Clemens in a truly haunting performance).  For reasons that become clearer as the play progresses, Crystal is desperate both to fool a case worker into believing that the vacant house is her home and in closing the deal on a pricey Sky Red Line convertible with the slick motivational speaker Charlie (who, with his Mitt Romney looks and swagger, is captured perfectly by James D. Farruggio).  Charlie seems to have a knack for sniffing out and then exploiting desperation and his pursuit of Crystal sets off a violent chain of reactions that would fit well in a Quentin Tarantino flick.

Hillary Clemens (Crystal) and Paul D'Addario (Gary)

Director Marti Lyons demonstrates a commanding grasp of the material and presents it in a respectful but not overly rigid manner.  Besides being a commentary on our very recent financial past, Laura Mark’s script is a page turner and Lyons does a good job of keeping the viewer on the edge of his or her seat.  It is also the little touches, like Christopher Kriz’s (Original Music and Sound Design) use of stale elevator music within the Saturn dealership, that help to suggest a financial world rotting from the inside. 

Hillary Clemens (Crystal) and Susaan Jamshidi (Toni)

I do have some problems with the basic set up in that Crystal’s challenges would probably make more sense if she were recovering from a drug addiction or some other hurdle.  The script also does not give Crystal’s manager (Kirby O’Connel) enough to do.  This character would have been the perfect vehicle to inject a little Glengarry Glen Ross edge but is instead realized as a half-conceived moral compass.  At the same time, Bethany is pitch-perfect in its use of Saturn as a metaphor of what went wrong toward the end of the last decade.  With its no-nonsense straight shooting sales approach (if you remember the car was never sold below its sticker price) Saturn never stood a chance in these murky financial times.      

Mary Anne Bowman (Patricia)

Bottom Line:  Bethany is recommended and is playing at The Gift Theatre (4802 N. Milwaukee) though November 23rd Thursday-Sunday $20-$30.  For more information or to purchase tickets click here.  For more theater reviews go to theaterinchicago.

Photos by:  Claire Demos

Published on Oct 01, 2014

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