MINUTES FROM THE BLUE ROUTE, Green Room Project, at the Athenaeum Theatre. It's surprising how little cohesion or inspiration this Chicago premiere exhibits given that a large percentage of the people involved in it are professors in Columbia College's theater department. In Tom Donaghy's bittersweet family comedy, a young magician comes home at his parents' request to talk his younger sister out of quitting college. Shawn B. Young and Katie Cassis play the siblings with an understated naturalism, but Columbia husband-and-wife team Bradley Mott and Susan Osborne-Mott play the parents as larger-than-life cartoons. Bradley Mott in particular acts as if he were performing in a much bigger theater than the Athenaeum's studio space, substituting diction and projection for detailed characterization; his performance is not so much drawn as scribbled. And when the play's inconsequential banter turns into more serious discussions of the young magician's struggle with AIDS, his sister's love life, and their parents' plans to sell the family home, the contrasting performance styles undermine any impact the conflicts might have had.
Donaghy, author of the better known Down the Shore, doesn't offer the cast and crew much original material; the schematic plot and mechanical way in which his characters talk past each other suggest this is an early work. Susan Padveen's direction doesn't help. And Joe Cerqua's innocuous jazz score fails to blend completely with the production, concluding each scene--whether comic or maudlin--on a tepid note. --Adam Langer