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breaks & bikes
by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times

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Playwright: Mallery Avidon. At: Pavement Group at Collaboraction Studio 300 at Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets:; $25. Runs through: Dec. 9

Just days before Pavement Group officially opened Mallery Avidon's world-premiere drama, breaks & bikes, the company shared exciting news about its artistic associate playwright. Another one of Avidon's works, O Guru Guru Guru, or why I don't want to go to yoga class with you, was selected for the 2013 Humana Festival of New American Plays at the Actors Theatre of Louisville.

And if there is any justice, Avidon's breaks & bikes will be picked up by other companies across the country following director Kathryn Walsh's masterfully realized staging at Collaboraction's Studio 300 at Chicago's Flat Iron Arts Building.

A definite improvement over her interesting but flawed 2009 play, fracture/mechanics, Avidon's breaks and bikes largely looks in at the dimming hopes of a group of young Seattle adults who are pulled into the fading orbit of their influential friend (and sometimes lover), Drew (Joe Wiens), a 31-year-old law student and former rock musician who has fallen into a coma following a cycling accident.

On the scene immediately is Drew's financially troubled mom, Deb (Morgan McCabe) and a former girlfriend, Cass (Sasha Gioppo), who is now in medical school. Appearing soon thereafter are two other on-and-off girlfriends, artist Devin (Cyd Blakewell) and hairdresser Ali (Laura Lapidus), and Drew's former bandmate Jason (Keith Neagle), who now works as a bike courier.

As these friends and relations uneasily identify and question each other's ties to Drew, the patient himself offers unheard comments and requests before ultimately getting up to sing and play electric guitar to comment on the situation. It's an involving device on Avidon's part to pull the audience in to puzzle together Drew's romantic life and failed aspirations to become a rock star, and how he has been vital to those people now uncomfortably waiting in the hospital.

Avidon's up-to-date dialogue is by turns both realistic and poetical, and she finds comforting humor amid the unhappy situation (much is made about the characters' various cellular phones and the sometimes reluctant transitions from partying young adults pushed to grow up and make mature responsible choices). The entire talented cast builds upon Avidon's fine textual framework with emotionally raw and richly revealing performances.

Although Shaun Fenfro's basic set design consists of a few chairs and a collage of oversize torn photos, it serves as an appropriate backdrop for the performers to standout amid the precision focus of lighting designer Janna Webber.

Inevitably, breaks & bikes will prod the audience to reflect on their own life's compromises, and of the arbitrariness of accidents to strike one's friends and loved ones. Although clearly aimed at a thirtysomething audience, breaks & bikes should speak to anyone.

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