Aaron Lockman is an actor and playwright recently graduated from Columbia College Chicago. You can see him in The Living Room's upcoming DaDa Solo show, and you can hear his voice in the Audible productions of Locke and Key and The X-Files, as well as on the podcast The Audio Diary of Aaron Lockman
Photo by Joe Mazza | Brave Lux
By Aaron Lockman
SOME LIKE IT RED begins when three cruise ship musicians, Violet, Rose, and Daisy (Jessica Saxvik, Christina Casano, and Sara Jean McCarthy), run afoul of a thunderstorm and get shipwrecked on the shore of Albania, in the middle of both the 1980’s and an oppressive communist regime. In order to remain undiscovered, they must pose as male servants in the house of Petar (Derik Marcussen) — and in the meantime, Violet gets caught up in a mad scheme involving visiting fascist Commander Osmani (Tony Kaehny) as he attempts to woo the mourning lady of the house, Olga (Elaine Small).
If you’ve noticed some similarities to the plot of Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT, you’re not entirely wrong; in fact, the setting is somewhat of an in-joke, seeing as Shakespeare’s fictional “Illyria” shares a name with a region of Albania. But while it certainly contains traces of TWELFTH NIGHT, especially regarding its sexual and gender-related shenanigans, SOME LIKE IT RED feels more like a mid-20th-century farce than either Will’s famous play or the 1959 movie it draws its title from. And this keen, self-aware sense of genre, as playwright Gregory Peters plucks elements from a variety of sources to make something both bizarre and ridiculous, is what gives the play its charm.
The first act takes a while to spread its wings, and is marred by some missteps. Exposition is withheld for a little too long, and even when we finally get some in the third scene, it’s dragged down by some long pauses, overlapping lines, and unclear motivations. A few awkward stage pictures and ill-timed sound effects add to an initial lack of momentum.
The play picks up, however, as we get to know the characters better. Sara Jean McCarthy is absolutely hilarious as the non-speaking Daisy — her Harpo Marx-inspired slapstick is an utter joy to witness. Christina Casano makes a delightfully deadpan smartass out of Rose, and Jessica Saxvik is the most entertaining to watch as Violet is pulled back and forth, simultaneously trying to please everyone she meets and keep her friends’ cover from getting blown. Tony Kaehny is a joy to watch as Osmani, the mustachioed government stooge, struggles to keep himself poised and respectable, even as everything he represents is ruthlessly mocked by pretty much everyone. And Lieutenant Malush (Stephen McClure) and Captain Meksi (Bryan Breau) are both adorably incompetent as Osmani’s two subordinates. Elaine Small is perhaps the most surprising as Olga, as she stays offstage for most of the play but immediately became my favorite character upon her appearance, due to her fierce intelligence, refusal to cater to those who expected her to fill certain roles (both as a tyrant’s daughter and as a woman), and her immediate chemistry with Saxvik as Violet. As with most farce, the responsibility to get laughs and pull heartstrings is piled largely upon the actors, and this cast is certainly up to the task.
While SOME LIKE IT RED feels a little rough around the edges, it succeeds because there is heart below the surface. As I watched the characters fight, laugh, and fall in love, all in the midst of trying to live everyday life in an oppressive fascist regime (sound familiar to anyone?), I will admit that even my shriveled Grinch heart grew three sizes that day. This emotionally resonant struggle, plus an abundance of rib-cracking laughs and a delightfully gay twist at the end, make this show a must-see.
SOME LIKE IT RED plays through March 17th at the Berger Park Coach House. More info at theplagiarists.org.