Apocalyptic Butterflies, Collaboraction, at Chicago Dramatists. Anyone who's ever experienced the doldrums of a relationship or looked around one day and wondered "Is this all there is?" will recognize the sadness presented with such breezy charm in Wendy MacLeod's comedy. Hank is a small-town shoe salesman who fears his wife no longer loves him--Muriel hasn't been the same since their baby was born seven weeks earlier. Oblivious to the frustration building in his wife, and receiving bizarre but well-intentioned help from his parents, Hank begins an affair with a buxom grocery store clerk (played with confident complexity by Kerry Cox).
Director Kimberly Senior gives the silly and the serious their due in this enjoyable 75-minute production. Jennifer Avery and Larry Grimm as Muriel and Hank move through affection, tension, and tolerance believably, and her weary sadness contrasts well with his whiny neediness. Especially in the presence of his parents (Rob Skrocki and Margaret Kustermann), Grimm's Hank is more petulant child than mature man.
MacLeod's one-act isn't flawless, however. Its quirkiness can feel forced, and the final scenes are unsatisfying. If the story were further fleshed out, the denouement would build more naturally--as written, it's so inevitable that MacLeod openly acknowledges its predictability. The abrupt ending seems false, undermining this well-played, honest, if odd portrait of the highs, lows, and uncertainties of human relationships.