Bec Willett is an Australian, Chicago-based director, designer, educator, and writer. She has worked on projects with an array of Chicago theater companies, including 20% Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, City Lit, Dandelion Theatre, Prologue Theatre, and Waltzing Mechanics. To find out more about her work and upcoming projects, please visit becwillett.com.
Pictured: Cast of RAISED IN CAPTIVITY. Photo by Lindsay Williams.
By Bec Willett
In Nicky Silver’s darkly comic family drama RAISED IN CAPTIVITY, estranged siblings Bernadette and Sebastian find connection after their mother’s death at the hand of, of all things, a showerhead. Silver’s talent for humor is not just found in such outlandish ideas but in his use of language accompanied by a brutal accuracy for drawing satirical characters overflowing with humanity’s foibles. Right Brain Project’s production, however, only manages to make some of this comedic mastery shine.
The first impression of the stage is a little forlorn, with the scenic design consisting of a few painted rehearsal cubes and a lonely window cutout in the corner of an otherwise black box space. While it becomes clear that thought has been put into the arrangement of these cubes to form the play’s multiple locations, the execution feels indecisive—as though they were unable to chose between having a full set or none at all. t makes for a difficult starting point for both actors and audience alike, as it lacks the lightness to support the comedy of the play.
In the first scene, the cast enters with energy and purpose. Hannah Williams as the brittle Bernadette fully embodies the awkwardness of the situation as she’s trailed by her handbag-nursing husband, Kip. As the play progresses, despite the consistency of energy, many of the characters’ journeys are proven one-note. Instead of trusting the text, they often try to force the funny, with a monotonous pace that lacks the ebb and flow ideal for comedic cadence. The exception is Tyler Esselman, whose performance as Kip exudes ease as he sits in the moment, relying on the truth and the text as the key to the humour. Though not in primarily comedic roles, Vic Kuligoski’s multi-character performance likewise forges many strong connections, especially as inmate Dylan Taylor Sinclair.
While Right Brain Project’s production of RAISED IN CAPTIVITY has potential, the bare-bones design choices and the lack of trust in Silver’s comedic mastery make much of the experience feel forced rather than funny.
RAISED IN CAPTIVITY runs through May 19th. For more information visit therbp.org.