Good Gimmicks, Good Acting, and…I’m afraid to say—little else.
Having recently attended a delightful showcase of one-minute plays at Victory Gardens Theater, I can’t help but think that “The Burden of Not Having a Tail” would have made a great fit with that ensemble. If your reaction is like mine I need to warn that you may find yourself wondering not how it will end but when.
This is the story of a woman in a bunker, with a script lampooning the legions of modern paranoias from germs to food poisons and more.
As we sit waiting for the show to begin we are given two whiteboards to vote upon—indicating our greatest fears and choosing from a checklist that ranges from public speaking to deep water.
This starts with an audience participation format, which bright blue-eyed actress Karie Miller can more than pull off.
But even she couldn’t help the audience member pulled onto the stage midway from apparently wandering off to think about something else. The same was mirrored in the seats. No matter how sparkling her eyes, Miller is fighting a script that seems to need major edits to give us something more than a verbose snapshot of a woman unhinged.
We do learn that the apocalypse that preoccupies her present is actually a wound from the past. We don’t learn about this in a way that grows our affection or connection with the character, however.
What is a constant source of giggles is the manipulation of props to systematically fall from the sky or collapse from shelves or pour mountains of marshmallows on to the set. By the time of this last string pull we get it--- the disarray of her mind is reflected in the total chaos of her bunker. This obvious gag was funny even when it became predictable. Similarly, the eye for detail that included bunker prep checklists in the program and the 50’s style documentary voice narrative warning of how germs are spread as you enter the theater space were great touches.
Congratulations need to go to Sideshow Theatre Company for continuing to stick its neck out with way offbeat character scripts. By my lights this experiment failed to meet the mark, but that hopefully will not deter the group from finding more scripts telling tales on the fringe.
Sideshow Theater Company
Staged at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 West Chicago Avenue
June 29 - August 4, 2013
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM; Sundays at 3 PM
Opening set photo: Peter Kachergis
All other photos: Jonathan L. Green