The Dorothy Project, Curious Theatre Branch. Last weekend, while Lookingglass Theatre Company celebrated the opening of its new multimillion-dollar facility on the Gold Coast, another local troupe was inaugurating its space in East Rogers Park. Curious Theatre Branch--at 15, precisely the same age as Lookingglass--now occupies a bare-bones storefront at Lunt and Glenwood, east of the Morse el station and south of a shamanic counseling center. The have/have not contrast couldn't be clearer, but neither could the essential similarity between the two companies: these are close-knit, fierce ensembles trying to fulfill their visions in tough--albeit very differently tough--Chicago neighborhoods.
The Curious vision has always been aggressively homemade, and The Dorothy Project is a perfect case in point. Written by the group's sliest member, Beau O'Reilly, this sweet satire about love and tantrums at a women's theater festival is performed by a cast that includes at least three O'Reilly relatives and various longtime collaborators. The production values are raw, the cast uneven, and the script suggests an ethos in which it might be considered aesthetic fascism to advise cutting the half hour that so badly needs to go.
And yet the play has charm, thanks partly to Beau O'Reilly's insight into the artistic mind and partly to Cecilie O'Reilly's authority as the festival matriarch. Julie Caffey, Elizabeth Graettinger, Kat McJimsey, and Kathleen Powers also have endearing turns, though Caffey's languorous line delivery grows wearisome. Lookingglass's Mary Zimmerman gets a cameo of sorts--a peer's tribute.