Playwrights: Seth Bockley and Devon de Mayo for Dog & Pony Theatre Company Adore. Playwright: Stephen Louis Grush for XIII Pocket punkplay. Playwright: Gregory Moss for Pavement Group. At: Steppenwolf Garage Theatre, 1624 N. Halsted. Phone: 312-335-1650; $20, $45 three-play pass. Runs through: April 25
Good things come in threes, and Steppenwolf Theatre confirms that by hosting three storefront companies for Garage Rep. Each show is far from perfect, but they're all interesting ( or unsettling ) enough to warrant a one-day marathon or a piecemeal sampling of unconventional homegrown theater.
The most impressive and distinctive show of the bunch is Dog & Pony Theatre Company's The Twins Would Like to Say. And that largely has to do with its clever promenade-style staging.
Director/authors Seth Bockley and Devon de Mayo have audiences wander around eavesdropping in on scenes which often play simultaneously to learn about the real-life twins June and Jennifer Gibbons, who refused to communicate with anyone other than themselves for 20 years.
Dealing with extreme culture shock and racism when their family relocated from Barbados to western Wales, the Gibbons twins turn to writing outrageous fantasies before turning to more extreme ways of gaining attention. Bockley and de Mayo work wonders with their cast and the multiple-playing areas to include puppetry, disco dancing and more. It's an intriguing ( albeit sometime vague ) ride that expertly captures the mystery of the story.
If the Twins Would Like to Say doesn't explain enough, then Stephen Louis Grush's Adore for XIII Pocket tries to explain away what is ultimately unfathomable: the real-life 2001 murder in Germany of Bernd Jürgen Brandes ( Paige Smith ) who became a willing victim to cannibal Armin Miwes ( Eric Leonard ) after they met via the Internet.
Through alternating monologues ( and dialogue with actors on video ) , Grush's characters explain that theirs was the ultimate love where one person becomes part of the other ( yuck! ) . The problem is that Grush's hypothesis of self-hatred and homophobia for Brandes' extreme sacrifice doesn't ring true ( really no explanation would make sense ) .
If Adore succeeds in making you squirm in revulsion, Gregory Moss' punkplay for Pavement Group will certainly make anyone who grew up in the 1980s laugh and reminisce about their own adolescence during that era.
David Perez amusingly stages this ode to two teens fumbling as they try to break from suburban conventionality amid Grand Sabin's clever generic white set ( which gets trashed as the show goes on ) . Both Mickey ( Matt Farabee ) and Duck ( Alexander Lane ) slowly transform themselves into punk rockers, even though ( unbeknownst to them ) it's dying out as a trend by 1985.
Moss comically explores fumbling adolescence amid several clipped scenes that include outrageous oddball characters played by Tanya McBride and Keith Neagle.
Farabee is heartbreaking as Mickey, especially when his character comes to realize that he's really pining for Lane's great lug-headed Duck. It's moments like these that make punkplay much more than a nostalgic satire on 1980s fashions and the fickleness of teenage trend transformations.