Kelsey is a Chicago based producer, actor, writer, critic, and mixologist. An alum of Black Box Acting’s ACADEMY Program, Kelsey curates “The Newness,” a monthly salon of new work. They also work closely with Trans Voices Cabaret Chicago as well as Chicago Theatre Access Auditions. Follow them on Insta! @playsandpours, @kelseylooks
Pictured: (L to R) Logan Hulick, Elise Spoerlein, Sunny Anam, and Aria Szalai-Raymond. Photo by Matthew Freer.
By Kelsey McGrath
PINE is a site-specific theatre piece directed by Arianna Soloway, tucked among the trees of Uncommon Ground Edgewater’s Christmas Tree lot. The space is lined with bus seats and car seats, each with a cozy blanket and tower heaters in between. The show is actually an entire event, with a “Hot Beverages” cocktail list on the final page of the program. This production was designed to be a challenge for the audience, inviting them to brave the cold weather as PINE unfurls the stories of four millennials in 2017 England.
PINE’s site specificity is the most exciting part of the show. The entire experience is cultivated the instant the audience arrives. Considering the logistical complications and hard work behind creating this space is admirable; this play was a long time coming and demanded hard work on both the part of director and production manager. Especially since this show is being presented without a company attached, PINE deserves high praise.
However, whether or not the site specificity served the story is another conversation. At times, it was difficult to hear the actors and their chemistry felt strained. As though they were fighting through the distractions of being cold, being outdoors, English accents, noisy buses and passerby. Individually, these actors are strong, but lack authenticity as an ensemble.
It feels like a 2017 Breakfast Club, the joining together of unlikely characters with archetypical stories. They criticize and compare their own experiences. And in the end, everyone learns something about themselves. There are a few extraordinarily obvious monologues about the state of things for millennials: how we have to work hard with no jobs and a billion necessary degrees and how we’re all told we’re special, but we have to lose our entitlement and start at the bottom rung of the ladder.
While it felt good for my contemporary struggle to be acknowledged, it began to feel like whining. We don’t get to know these characters enough to care about when disaster strikes. This also means the stakes aren’t high enough for the twists and turns of the relationships to be justified. There are weak links in the flow of the action. However, this text has humor and strives to embody an honest reality. The ensemble and director honor this in an incredibly genuine way.
PINE is unlike any show I’ve seen in Chicago; the extent to which the experience is curated makes it worth the trip to Edgewater. There is no reason to not brave the cold and make it out to this exciting work.
PINE runs through December 10th. For more information visit festivepines.com