World Builders Review - Redefining Crazy

 

First Floor Theater presents the Chicago premiere of World Builders, a play by Johnna Adams that deals with the fictional inner worlds of those with schizoid personality disorder. In turns sweet, sincere, and painfully honest, this short play about a rarely discussed condition brings to light fascinating questions about the relative merits of being sane.

 

(left to right) Andrew Cutler and Carmen Molina in First Floor Theater's World Builders, written by Johnna Adams, and directed by Jesse Roth

 

Performed in Collaborcation's intimate Room 300 Theater, World Builders is set in a semi-abandoned lounge in a facility where an experimental drug trial is taking place. Trial participant Max enjoys spending time in the lounge because of its relative isolation, but when fellow participant Whitney bursts into his private space one day, eager to interact with him, the two form what is at first a one-sided friendship.

 

(left to right) Carmen Molina and Andrew Cutler in First Floor Theater's World Builders, written by Johnna Adams, and directed by Jesse Roth

 

Because the drugs the two are taking to make them “normal” are likely to totally eliminate the inner “worlds” they have created, Whitney wants to share hers with Max so that even when she can no longer remember her world, it will still live on. Initially unenthused, Max eventually opens up about his world as well, and the two engage in conversations both supportive and argumentative about the nature of each other’s worlds—and, more importantly, whether or not they want them to disappear.

 

(left to right) Andrew Cutler and Carmen Molina in First Floor Theater's World Builders, written by Johnna Adams, and directed by Jesse Rot

 

The story is as deeply immersive for the audience as the character’s imaginary worlds are for them. Performed in the round in a small space, it is impossible for the audience not to feel that they, too, are in this lounge, witnessing this series of conversations. The characters, while atypical in their personalities and behaviors, are likeable and unique, especially the charmingly narcissistic Whitney, played with great energy and depth by Carmen Molina. First Floor Theater associate artistic director Andrew Cutler plays Max, and while his performance is not as strong as Molina’s, it is engaging nevertheless.

 

Andrew Cutler in First Floor Theater's World Builders, written by Johnna Adams, and directed by Jesse Roth

 

The script has its flaws—the writing in general feels unsophisticated, and the constant repetition of the words world and hole grew irritating quickly. While some additional workshopping would not be unwelcome, the unusual subject matter and fascinating interaction between the two characters makes the writing’s weaknesses forgivable.

 

Carmen Molina in First Floor Theater's World Builders, written by Johnna Adams, and directed by Jesse Roth

 

Costumes by Katherine Pavlovna Goldberg are an important element of the storytelling; the dully colored, comfortable clothes of hospital in-patients are swapped out for more colorful everyday clothes before the final scene. Scenic design by Eleanor Kahn is simple but clever, allowing for director Jesse Roth to block cleanly in the small, in-the-round space.

 

(left to right) Carmen Molina and Andrew Cutler in First Floor Theater's World Builders, written by Johnna Adams, and directed by Jesse Roth. All photos by Evan Barr

 

World Builders adds a complex new perspective to contemporary discussions of mental health issues. First Floor Theater has done well in bringing this compelling work to Chicago.

 

Ticket Information

Location: Collaboraction's Room 300 Theater at The Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N Milwaukee Ave, 3rd Floor, Chicago, IL 60622

Dates: T​hursday, June 9 – Saturday, July 2, 2016

Show Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 p.m, Sundays at 3:00 p.m.

Please note: There will be added industry performances on June 13, June 22, and June 27.

Tickets: $20 general admission tickets. $10 industry tickets on the Industry performances only.

Tickets for World Builders are available at the First Floor Theater website.

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