Jonald Jude Reyes is a Writer, Performer & Director in Chicago, IL. His works have been performed in various theaters city-wide, including Stage 773, The Annoyance, and The Second City. In 2016, he was named Best of Stage Director by the Chicago Reader and was selected to the DirectorsLabChicago program. Learn more at http://www.jonaldjude.com.
By Jonald Jude Reyes
Within the small confines of one of The Den Theatre’s 50-seat spaces, WildClaw Theatre makes efficient use of the venue layout in order to exude as much of a horror experience as possible in their first production of the 2018 season, FUTURE ECHOES. Once you walk into the space you’ll witness an amazing set-up by their design, property and carpenter crew which displays transparent walls peering into the kitchen and living room of Allie (Gabrielle Lott-Rogers). As the play progresses, the payoff of having such a great set falls a bit short as the story has too many layers and a bit too much to chew.
Playwright Paul Foster starts with old college friends reuniting to reminisce of crazy partying days. Once Bennie (Brian Pastor) begins the play with his entrance, there’s this loose vibe that sets a bit of mysterious backstory between he and Allie. After the small interaction, Carolyn (Hillary Gokenbach) and Deitrick (Gregory Madden) enter–a couple already in the midst of an argument–but again, delivered in subtle drops to keep a mysterious feel at the top of the play. With lighting and sound design popping in & out for the audience to jump forward in time, we’re now later in dinner conversation which is suddenly met with the entrance of zombie-like characters creepily contorting.
At first, the 4 friends don’t take notice, but then they do hear something. It’s a bit confusing as to what actually scares them and what doesn’t, since we can see them and they can’t. When they finally get scared enough, they run outside of the house to figure out that there are ghosts haunting them. As the story progresses, Eamon (Greg Wenz), a roommate they’ve been talking about in fragments, shows up and reveals to them that a science experiment he’s been working on has come to fruition. We now get into a time-traveling plot with other layers of motives that become revealed along the way. Here is where there’s just too much unnecessary backstory between everyone to try to get to a big payoff, making the end fall a bit flat.
A cool ‘Groundhogs Day’ device showcased within a time jump sequence happens when Eamon and Allie are shown eating dinner. Every time Allie brings up something that would seemingly halt the blossoming of their relationship, through time travel, Eamon introduces a new heightened want that Allie should accept. However, Allie breaks the ‘spell’ and realizes that there’s fraudulence in this life experience.
Wenz has multiple moments of vulnerability that convincingly displays his heightened obsession with another human and frustration when things are not in his control. There is certainly a simpler element to the play that gets buried too deep, that of lost love. Deitrick and Eamon express a similar line when they say that the evil they’ve done was for love. But again, with so many layers of time travel, time jumping, and ghost interaction, we get a bit overwhelmed.