Love and Money
Playwright: Dennis Kelly
At: Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn
Phone: 312-458-0722; $20-$22
Runs through: Feb. 25
Don't Act Like a Girl
Playwright: Wes Perry
At: Annoyance Theatre, 4830 N. Broadway
Phone: 773-561-4665; $10
Runs through: Feb. 12
There's no denying that Dennis Kelly's drama Love and Money is a downer. But Love and Money, now in its Midwest premiere at Steep Theatre, is a timely work with astute observations on economic greed and materialism as we discover one couple's ruin due to extreme debt.
Right from the startwhen telecommunications salesman David (Peter Moore) flirts via email with a recent French flingwe soon become horrified by the depths he went to in shedding excessive debt from his life (in the U.K., if a spouse has racked up thousands in credit card debt, the debt dies with her).
Kelly's play then reveals in reverse how David had to degrade himself in order to help his late wife, Jess (Julia Siple), who had racked up $70,000 worth of credit-card debt thanks to high interest rates and her shopping addiction.
However, it's not all about David and Jess, as we meet comical and disturbing periphery characters. Jason Michael Lindner and Molly Reynolds are an amusing duo as Jess' mourning parents with a violent resentment of others' wealth. Darci Nalepa's Val also relishes the newfound power she has over her college ex-boyfriend when he comes groveling for a higher-paying job. Gregory Rothman also has fun as a lowlife who finds dubious ways for desperate people to get fast cash.
Love and Money is definitely sobering, which is why the final flashback scene of Jess fascinated by the miracle of life hits such a wrong note. Jess is portrayed with so much self-assurance that it's hard to make a connection to her here and to her later unfortunate fate with David.
Still, director Robin Witt gets strong performances from her acting company to help contemplate the characters' dilemmas with people we may know who have similar economic struggles. Love and Money is definitely another dramatic triumph for Steep Theatre.
Another triumph of a funnier sort can be seen at the Annoyance Theatre in Wes Perry's Don't Act Like a Girl, which is a one-man-and-a-band memoir of growing up gay on prescription drugs in Southern California.
Perry's deadpan comic timing and askew anecdotes are hilarious under Tim Paul's fine direction. Also, the visual progression of a bearish Perry singing and applying makeup to ultimately appear in drag by the end is also a lot of fun.
My only qualm is that the show could have a title that better emphasizes Perry's relationship with prescription drugs. Perry is of a generation not only when being gay is more okay, but also one where pharmaceuticals are overly pushed to solve any small behavioral problem. It's this aspect of the show that stands out and calls for further examination.