This time, Steve Bartman comes to the rescue.
For the first half-hour of Theatre Seven's "We Live Here," an original, ensemble-driven, multiauthor homage to the quintessence of the city of Chicago, the show flails around. The early pieces feel pretentiously staged and inattentive to detail — and if there is one way you do not want to begin a show about Chicago and what it means to those who chose to spend their lives within its challenging borders, it's with pretension.
Better by far to stick to telling the simple truth.
At the top of this show, which was penned by Kristin Idaszak, Doug Whippo, Kim Morris, Nick Ward, Brian Golden, Laura Eason, Scott Barsotti and Molly Each, and conceived and directed, sometimes self-consciously, by Margot Bordelon and Cassy Sanders, we meet a teenager from Itasca on an
Details, details. They matter in Chicago, a city that is all about neighborhood details. Shortly after the train dissolves — pretentiously — there's a kinetic staging of a bike messenger swooping through the city. It's all very artistic and creative, yadda, yadda — but the messenger is delivering airline tickets. Who delivers airline tickets anymore? And this is a messenger whose surroundings look more like a college studio than the perilous Loop.
Then we meet a waiter (Behzad Dabu) who wants to go to a concert but can't leave his last, lingering table. Fair enough. But they've already paid their check.
When we get to that notorious
Thereafter, "We Live Here" continues to get much better. There is a poignant tale of single apartment life on the
The plays in "We Live Here" were designed to be autobiographical, so it's forgivable that they skew toward one view of the city, that of the 20- or 30-something aspiring writer and artist. But I kept watching the real people who show up on the screens behind the live action and talk about their beloved hometown, essentially offering updated takes on the old
And never a lovely that you so fervently want to defend. There's a message there for the theater people standing in the front.
The best scene of the three-dimensional show takes place back on the Red Line, the mainline artery running through these writers' lives. Its appeal is not the physical staging; it just feels real. The piece is just a bunch of miserable but stoic Cubs fans going home together after a loss. In Chicago, be the antagonist a team, the weather, a job or a politician, who has not been there?
When: Through Sept. 11
Where: Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes