Piven's TUSK TUSK Review - Gripping Drama of Children Trying to Cope

No one who experienced Tusk Tusk last night as it opened at the Piven Theatre Workshop could possibly say it was a good time.  The intimacy of the theater guaranteed that we would feel the children’s pain, desperation and sense of betrayal even as we marveled at the strength of their devotion to one another as disaster looms. There were times when I stopped breathing I was so intensely concerned for their fate.

And yet, I wholeheartedly recommend it.  THIS is what theater is about.  Engagement at this level is as rare as it is riveting. Don’t miss it. You’ve got until October 7, 2012 to get there.

Did you know there are more theaters in Chicagothan any city in the world? We are truly blessed with a wealth of theatrical choices. And I strongly suggest we sample, taste and devour as many of them as possible. But occasionally, while visiting this cafeteria of drama and comedy, we discover a gem, an example of extraordinarily fine work that stands out and deserves our notice.   That’s Tusk Tusk.


Where do I start? Artistic Director Jennifer Green returns to the Piven stage to direct the American premier of Tusk Tusk written by the young playwright Polly Stenham. One of the youngest playwrights ever to be produced at the Royal Court Theatre, Stenham sure doesn’t act her age (20-something).  We, the audience, got a veritable workout running the gamut of emotions from empathy, humor, tenderness, loss, discovery, resentment—the list goes on.


The cast of children and occasional adults was perfect: I never felt I was watching acting. Bryce Lunsky, Olivia Cygan, Gabriel Stern, Austin Moore, Joanne Underwood, and Jeff McLane were true-to-life whether you were sympathizing or outraged by them. The costumes, the set, the music, lighting, the fighting, and physicality were so real, sometimes disturbing, and always just right.  A couple people we met complained about how loud the hollering was.  I, too, found it hard to take at times, but these were starving, terrified, and abandoned children— sometimes drunk.  It’s no surprise to me that they were occasionally over the top.

Predictably, there’s no simple, tidy ending to this story.  TUSK TUSK,  like the great art it is, now lives in your head so you can turn it over and over and think about what it means. Bravo.


Tusk Tusk  at a glance:

Synopsis: Tusk Tusk tells the explosive story of London siblings left to fend for themselves after their mother goes missing.

Title:             Tusk  Tusk

Written by:    Polly Stenham

Directed by:  Jennifer Green

Featuring:  Bryce Lunsky, Olivia Cygan, Gabriel Stern, Austin Moore, Joanne Underwood, and Jeff McLane

Dates:          September 14- October 7, 2012

Schedule:     Fri & Sat: 7:30 p.m.

                    Saturdays & Sundays:   2:30 p.m. 

Please note:

  • There will be NO show on Saturday, September 15 at 2:30 p.m. 
  • The only Thursday show: October 4 at 7:30, when Polly Stenham comes in for a post-show discussion. 


Location:       Piven Theatre Workshop, 927 Noyes Street, Evanston. (Noyes Purple Line Stop)

Tickets: $25 regular run performance. Group, senior and student rates available

Box Office:    Located at 927 Noyes Street #110, Evanston; (847) 866-8049 or onlinewww.piventheatre.org


About Piven Theatre Workshop:

Piven Theatre Workshop has excelled as a leader in the arts community for 40 years, maintaining a distinguished legacy in the training of children and adults in the theatre arts. Annually, between onsite and off-site programming, the theatre trains over 1,000 students, provides approximately $30,000 in need-based scholarships, and maintains a professional theatre and numerous outreach programs throughout the Chicagoarea. For more information, please visit www.piventheatre.org.


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