Poignant Tragedy SPINNING Unearths Haunting Empathy

Poignant Tragedy SPINNING Unearths Haunting Empathy

(Carolyn Kruse and Dan Waller Photo by Emily Schwartz).

REVIEW: SPINNING at Irish Theatre of Chicago

By Erin Roche

Connor Burke is a man overcome with regret, clutching at the scraps of life that remain after catastrophe tears apart his world like a tortuous riptide. The rosy, picket-fence existence he so cherishes—doting wife and daughter, lovely home, annual holidays in Spain—crumbles before him following the agonizing divorce from Jen, a miserable housewife whose wings have outstretched towards adventure, career pursuits, and a life without Connor. Susan is a single mother tormented by the sudden loss of her teenage daughter, grasping at any thread of logic behind why her Annie has been taken from this earth. Having just been released from prison, Connor, the object of Annie’s search for both fatherly and romantic male attention, has returned to face Susan in the wake of the death that brought both of them to shambles. Their meeting ignites the unfurling of a contemporary tragedy in which each detail revealed changes your perception and peels back layer upon layer of two lives wrecked by an unnatural disaster.

Illuminated by an ominous blue glow, a tilted pier poses as the setting for the Irish Theatre of Chicago’s chilling production of SPINNING. Grant Sabin creates a fifth character with a set that speaks as thoughtfully and intentionally as the actors themselves. Sturdy ropes suspending heavy stones and a small child’s pink coat line the edge of the pier, embodying the guilt and devastation that hang heavy over grief-ridden Connor and Susan.

With a sharp intake of breath, the gripping plot spins, beginning at the end. Dan Waller, sparking a dually incendiary and controlled fervor into Connor, Jodi Kingsley (Susan), Tyler Meredith (Annie), and Carolyn Kruse (Jen), gingerly weave together—under masterful direction by Joanie Schultz—a tapestry of events wrought with high emotional stakes. Shifting from present to past in an instant, this dizzying tale viscerally pulls you along like the waves perpetually rushing to shore upon the coastal Irish town. The sound of waves crashing is a subtle but constant reminder of the despair unspooling before you, underscoring the tension billowing thickly into your lungs as you witness an unlikely pair discover catharsis through their tumultuous encounter. Twisting and poignant, this narrative of grief, remorse, and forgiveness begs the question, “When does love go too far?”

Deirdre Kinahan, whose previous works include Fringe First-awarded HALCYON DAYS and critically-acclaimed MOMENT, is known for broaching socially-complex subjects. SPINNING, with its exploration of the emotional fallout that can occur with custody battles and broken family, is no exception—especially considering that divorce has only been legally recognized in Ireland for little more than a decade. This recent development in legislature overwhelmingly favors the mother, and the subsequent sticky aftermath of sorting out parental rights has left men like Connor feeling that the system deals them a tragically uneven hand. This matter arguably shares a correlation to the rise in parental abduction and even, in extreme cases, infanticide. In fact, SPINNING is inspired by a true story from 2003, where a father kidnapped his daughter, eventually leading to a murder/suicide as the police closed in on their whereabouts.

The intoxicating eighty minutes you spend with this U.S. premiere of SPINNING surprises you by shaking your urge to place blame and instead replaces that urge with a fierce empathy for those caught in the crossfire of destructive choices that comes with a life spinning out of control. Kinahan’s talent for dissecting the potential for violence as well as for redemption in all of us keeps her work dancing on the grey areas of life, delivering a haunting piece that will thrill and challenge you.

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About author

Erin Roche

Erin Roche is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Vocal Performance, a strong theater background, and an even stronger desire to showcase the best that Chicago talent has to offer.

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