At the conclusion of “The Casuals” we do get a brief taste of the paranoia of the 50’s and why the Ike we liked told us to watch out for the military industrial complex.
The weight of that moment is carried handily by Norm Woodel, as Officer Harris, and Ed Dzialo, playing a war radio host who finds himself way over his head and fighting for survival in the atomic age.
This moment is the bookend to another stellar performance at the beginning of the play by Bradley Grant Smith playing Les in terse and tense dialogue with Ed Dzialo’s character.
(Note to the casting agencies working on the Edward Snowden docudrama—Bradley Grant Smith is your man!)
However, for most of the play the anachronistic dialogue and characterizations in between these two moments are long and meandering. I would not be surprised if some just won’t be able to follow the plot. I did follow who was who and what was what, but didn’t learn anything new or hear something said about that time and place that is more poignant than the bare facts of the history itself.
There are several subplots. Newlyweds who have eloped are meeting up with an uncle who has disappointed the groom. A man with Leukemia volunteers in a secret government nuclear experiment in order to gain some financial security for his family. A young boy has the same leukemia his father had and his mother can’t brook his matter of fact acceptance of his imminent death. A former war radio announcer finds himself doing the dirty work of vast government plots to cover up its dirty deeds, much as he had covered up dirty deeds on a more personal level. And everybody gets their jollies by donning heavy duty shades to watch earth shaking atomic explosions in the nearby desert.
We are supposed to be thinking about trust and betrayal and hear echoes of breaches between nephew and uncle, husband and wife, government and its citizens and more. Instead I found myself wondering if my stovetop Italian espresso pot used as a prop was really as USA 50’s as the Life magazine on the table, or just a transplant from modern times like the “Love ya” type lingo.
If you want to know about the 50’s, a better plan would be to devote those two hours to doing newspaper archive research. “The Casuals” won’t fill in the gap.
Photos: Alex Hand
Run until July 28
Thursdays and Fridays 7:30
Saturday and Sundays 2:00 and 7:30
Tickets jackalopetheatre.org/tickets or 773 340 2543
Storefront Theater -- 66 East Randolph, Chicago