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THEATER REVIEW I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times
2019-03-01

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Playwright: Morgan Gould

At: Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 5779 N. Ridge Ave. Tickets: 773-334-7728; RivendellTheatre.org; $38. Runs through: March 23

This show made me feel old, with many pop song snippets and gamer/TV references I didn't know, although younger observers responded with raucous laughter. It made the play superficial for me, as if recognizing the many references was necessary shorthand for understanding the characters—shorthand I couldn't read—rather than the playwright providing character exposition.

Briefly, aspiring writers Sam ( Samantha ), whose size is an issue in the play, and Leo, the latter who is gay, are super-tight college best friends and now roomies in New York. They've been besties for 15 years, which puts them in their early 30s. So far, so good. Gay men with loving non-sexual gal pals are common. What we don't see is how being overweight ( in Sam's case ) or gay affects their lives.

Despite her size, Sam ( beautiful, full-figured, shapely Teressa LaGamba ) has a "normal" long-term boyfriend—called "Hot Mike"—who has no impact whatsoever on the story, as if he and Sam have no emotional life. She has a stable job and sells her first novel during the play as her relationship with Leo evolves dramatically. Nothing else seems to touch her life.

For his part, Leo has no sex life at all. During the play's 18-month time span, Leo ( big puppy dog Robert Quintanilla ) never has a date/trick, never discusses sex and has no friends beyond Sam. Like Sam being overweight, the play pointedly announces Leo is gay but then does nothing with it. Leo finally lands a steady-if-unimportant writing job where he befriends Chloe ( tall, thin wonderfully grating Jessica Ervin ), who becomes the wedge between Leo and Sam.

Chloe—annoyingly gushy when drinking—is somewhat vaguely positioned as everything Leo and Sam are not: straight, thin, Eastern and socially well-liked ( although we never see that Sam and Leo are not ). Even so, Chloe simply is not a sufficient counterbalance to explain Leo's and Sam's behaviors, especially Sam's ( in a twist I won't give away ), chiefly because playwright Morgan Gould doesn't spend time showing us who Sam and Leo are—that very character exposition ( see above ) missing from the first half of this 90-minute play.

Gould certainly has playwriting gifts. Her dialogue is fast, barbed and often funny, and she's created a colorful character in Sam, who is far more complex that we are shown. And that's a problem: We see the outcome of Sam's complexity but we never see the complexity itself.

The production is electric under director Jessica Fisch. It's fast, punchy, totally high-energy and often raucous. All three performers are skillful comic actors. LaGamba, especially, is a knockout in the dominant role. Regina Garcia's apartment scenic design handles the tight space well with good lines and details.

FYI: The play title—which Gould should change—comes from a song I don't know.


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