Erin Shea Brady is a contributing writer and critic at PerformInk and Newcity Stage. Directing credits include: Everybody (Brown Paper Box Co.) and Cabaret, Annapurna (staged reading) and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (No Stakes Theater Project). Erin has assistant directed and dramaturged productions at the Goodman, Jackalope, TimeLine, A Red Orchid, Northlight, and Remy Bumppo. Erin is a graduate of the directing program at Columbia College Chicago, the internship program at Steppenwolf, Jackalope's inaugural Playwright's Lab, and participated in the Goodman's Criticism in a Changing America bootcamp. Erin is a company member with Brown Paper Box Co. and is currently pursuing her MSW at Loyola.
Pictured: (left to right) Nathaniel Andrew, Shariba Rivers and Avi Roque. Photo by Evan Hanover.
By Erin Shea Brady
There is so much about Lucas Baisch’s bold, new play REFRIGERATOR in First Floor Theater’s production playing at The Den that I respect and support. This is not a company that plays it safe. Exploration of radical change requires risk, nerve, innovation, and total willingness to challenge the audience. These artists deliver — setting the standard, even, for work that ardently pursues conversation.
REFRIGERATOR dives deep into many calls for change, calling attention to classism and government corruption, sexuality and violence, and the complexities of our physical human experience. IceBox is a database where human beings can upload their consciousness and transition beyond the physical world.
The piece is gory, dystopian sci-fi, with an excavation of some larger-than-life ideas and a healthy dose of poetic dialogue that had me jotting down lines to unpack later. Many of the actors (namely, Shariba Rivers and Avi Roque) show a strong facility with words, ideas and sentiments that feel deep and prophetic. Both manage to play in the humor and relationships around them, but ultimately, the piece was unable to provide enough context to give the audience a foothold in what was at stake, specifically, for each of the characters. There is action — sex, violence, even horror — but the motivation is so intellectual, so unique to the world of the play, which in itself is a challenge to understand, that the payoff is unclear and comes off as shock rather than story.
I often wished that I had the script in front of me — as big, important truths were being dropped — to read, digest and process. I knew that I was being treated to a critical exploration of class, conditioning and human selfishness, among other things. However, there was so much packed into every line that I spent the play just trying to catch up. In part, I applaud the artists involved for their lack of apology in asking the audience for their full attention — I would never ask for a piece to dumb itself down for anyone’s comfort — and yet, even with my full attention, I know there was much that I missed.
It’s a frustrating play to watch — not for the conversations it has, but for the way that those conversations are communicated. It is also uniquely dark and cerebral, in the broader scope of the Chicago theater scene, and in this sense, it may be worth attending and supporting.
REFRIGERATOR runs through June 9th. For more information visit firstfloortheater.com.