Providence | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Providence, Transient Theatre.

In his new character comedy Chicago actor-writer David Gill adopts the more-is-less, attention-deficit approach: this play is packed with fervent exchanges, pungent metaphors, and dippy situations. You want to thank him for sharing. But it almost seems Gill doesn't expect to write a second play, this one is so crammed, with its 11 talky characters stranded in a Providence bus depot. What results is no Lanford Wilson accumulation/dance: assembling a hodgepodge of characters is in one way an easy matter of entrances and exits, but binding them takes more than talk therapy and advice-column solutions.

Gill's characters connect mainly through their quirks: guilt trips, New Age obsessions, instant crises, and flashbacks. But oddly these quirks separate more often than link them. With channel-surfing distractability, Gill jumps from forced revelations to easy confessions, juggling too many stories. Many of the characters are just keys to somebody's lock; the neat fit feels predetermined. Besides, Oprah notwithstanding, it's not this easy for strangers to open up to each other.

Director Jay Paul Skelton (who staged Eclipse Theatre's Porcelain) excels at creating ensemble rapport, inspiring energy and eloquence in his eight cast members. But then actors instinctively adore plays that give them surefire audition speeches (which may prove Providence's final fate). Making much of their speeches are Fred Schleicher, delightfully confused as a Harvard misfit with more love in him than either sex can take off his hands; Johnathan F. McClain, solidly if a bit automatically disturbed as a son haunted by his failure to see his dying mother; and Darlene Hunt, a neurotic chanteuse wrestling with second thoughts about a first marriage.

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