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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Crooked
THEATER REVIEW
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2012-05-30

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Playwright: Catherine Trieschmann. At: Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge Ave. Tickets: 773-334-7728; www.rivendelltheatre.org; $28.50. Runs through: June 23

Laney writes creepy short stories, usually involving abuse of the blameless and ending in a grotesque surprise-twist. The neogothic romanticism of her shivery tales lend palpability to the anxieties associated with her parents' divorce, precipitated by her father's mental breakdown, as well as her own disabling illness and the scariness of being 14 years old. Her friend Maribel has her church's doctrine to explain these mysteries—most of the time. The accord forged by the girls within their respective views of a confusing universe increasingly distances Laney from her mother—a confirmed rationalist, and therefore helpless to address her daughter's spiritual hunger—until tensions generated thereby demand the spilling of innocent blood.

In the tidily crafted dramas manufactured by the ream in playwrighting workshops all over America, an act of willful self-destruction would typically signal an intermission, followed by another hour of agitated discussion devoted to the behavior suddenly called into question. Catherine Trieschmann doesn't baby us with post-facto CliffsNotes, however. Like her teenage authoress, she gives us everything we need to know and then leaves us to sort it out: why pubescent girls suffering "growing pains" often deliberately injure themselves. Why parents who treat children like their equals are selfish and immature. Why a religion founded on a martyrdom is a dangerous foundation for cosmological orientation. The egotism that comes of enlightenment vs. the auto-abasement promoted by social isolation.

Confinement to a small room crowded with this many estrogen-fueled issues could easily lead to ideological suffocation (or inadvertent campiness, its most ready cure), but Sandy Shinner's direction never allows the intellectual overload or hormonal fumes to overwhelm the personal dynamics for the 80 minutes it takes to bring the conflicts to their abrupt conclusion, its violence emerging as the more shocking for being both unforeseen and eerily inevitable.

Rae Gray and Hannah Gomez replicate the hesitant curiosity of adolescent females with poignant accuracy, while Tara Mallen conveys just the right level of abject ambivalence in the thankless role of Elise, aka Mommy Clueless. The configuration of technical elements to the dimensions of Rivendell's storefront have improved with this second show (though Regina Garcia's handwriting-covered walls push the scenic design to the edge of precocity), rendering this early-summer production a patently servicable excuse to explore the burgeoning Edgewater Arts District.

Crooked

Playwright: Catherine Trieschmann

At: Rivendell Theatre,

5779 N. Ridge Ave.

Tickets: 773-334-7728;

www.rivendelltheatre.org; $28.50

Runs through: June 23

BY MARY SHEN BARNIDGE

Laney writes creepy short stories, usually involving abuse of the blameless and ending in a grotesque surprise-twist. The neogothic romanticism of her shivery tales lend palpability to the anxieties associated with her parents' divorce, precipitated by her father's mental breakdown, as well as her own disabling illness and the scariness of being 14 years old. Her friend Maribel has her church's doctrine to explain these mysteries—most of the time. The accord forged by the girls within their respective views of a confusing universe increasingly distances Laney from her mother—a confirmed rationalist, and therefore helpless to address her daughter's spiritual hunger—until tensions generated thereby demand the spilling of innocent blood.

In the tidily crafted dramas manufactured by the ream in playwrighting workshops all over America, an act of willful self-destruction would typically signal an intermission, followed by another hour of agitated discussion devoted to the behavior suddenly called into question. Catherine Trieschmann doesn't baby us with post-facto CliffsNotes, however. Like her teenage authoress, she gives us everything we need to know and then leaves us to sort it out: why pubescent girls suffering "growing pains" often deliberately injure themselves. Why parents who treat children like their equals are selfish and immature. Why a religion founded on a martyrdom is a dangerous foundation for cosmological orientation. The egotism that comes of enlightenment vs. the auto-abasement promoted by social isolation.

Confinement to a small room crowded with this many estrogen-fueled issues could easily lead to ideological suffocation (or inadvertent campiness, its most ready cure), but Sandy Shinner's direction never allows the intellectual overload or hormonal fumes to overwhelm the personal dynamics for the 80 minutes it takes to bring the conflicts to their abrupt conclusion, its violence emerging as the more shocking for being both unforeseen and eerily inevitable.

Rae Gray and Hannah Gomez replicate the hesitant curiosity of adolescent females with poignant accuracy, while Tara Mallen conveys just the right level of abject ambivalence in the thankless role of Elise, aka Mommy Clueless. The configuration of technical elements to the dimensions of Rivendell's storefront have improved with this second show (though Regina Garcia's handwriting-covered walls push the scenic design to the edge of precocity), rendering this early-summer production a patently servicable excuse to explore the burgeoning Edgewater Arts District.


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