Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology
Conception and Direction: Anthony Moseley. At: Collaboraction at Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets: 312-226-9633 or www.collaboraction.org; $15-$25. Runs through: March 10
Playwright: Aaron Weissman. Co-songwriter: Annie Prichard. At: Dog & Pony Theatre Company at Collaboraction Octagon Theatre, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets: 773-360-7933 or www.dogandponychicago.org; $25. Runs through: March 16
Violent crime and historical troubles in the U.S. economy are respectively explored in two world premiere revues currently playing at Chicago's Flat Iron Arts Building. Collaboraction is interpreting the facts of Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology, while Dog & Pony Theatre Company has minted the musical revue Counterfeiters.
Of the two, Crime Scene is more successful at laying out its intent up front. Crime Scene is the brainchild of Collaboraction artistic and executive director Anthony Moseley, and he starts the show off with a great staging device of having the audience mill about on top of a map of Chicago. It's as if to imply that we all part of the city and need to play our part to help stem the growing tide of murders and violence in the city (the show even has a moderated talk-back session after each performance to help foster dialogue in that direction)
Crime Scene is drawn from interviews, online comments, news pieces, which give the show a mish-mashed and fragmented feel in the drive to present so many varying stories and opinions. But the meat of the production is the telling of three real-life Chicago crime scenes: the mistaken 2000 murder of Orlando Patterson, the 2012 murder of aspiring rapper Joseph Coleman (Lil Jojo) and the violent 2010 baseball bat-attack of Natasha McShane and Stacy Jurich.
Performance-wise, the ensemble is very strong as they take up multiple characters and eventually raise up their voices to sing ensemble member Victoria Blade's song "Let Hope Rise," perhaps a too hopeful conclusion to a very bleak and often jolting show. Also strong is the multimedia-filled production design featuring the work of Liviu Pasare and John Wilson.
Whether Crime Scene does inspire audiences to take action remains to be seen, but it's nice to see that the artists of Collaboraction creatively react to problems in their own community.
As for Dog & Pony's Counterfeiters, it really needs a better thesis introduction upfront to inform audiences what they're in for: a disparate vaudeville revue of poetry, songs and sketches by playwright Aaron Weissman and songwriter Annie Prichard to explore historical questions of what is real and isn't in terms of U.S. monetary policy and practice.
Though a lot of design work has clearly gone into Counterfeiters, ranging from the creative period and often androgynous costumes by Catherine Tantillo to the cozy cabaret set of Grant Sabin, it's all stylistic window dressing for a script that's focus is pulled in too many different directions. And unfortunately, it feels like the talented actors are having more fun performing Counterfeiters than the audience will have watching them.