Do you live in a highrise condo on Lake Shore Drive? Or spend time with someone who does? Then all your suspicions about what goes on behind the scenes will be fulfilled in City Lit’s new production of Forty-Two Stories.
Burglaries of intimate garments, suicide jumpers, hysterical managers, doormen who think they run the building, custodians who yearn for a better life, romance between staff and resident. They’re all on stage here and it’s occasionally funny. You may be happy that your building is boring.
Douglas Post’s world premiere script, directed by Scott Westerman, focuses on the aftermath of a rash of burglaries, which are clearly an “inside job,” since there are no signs of break-ins. The custodial staff is required to take lie detector tests to determine guilt, but, of course, it turns out that the culprit was someone unexpected.
Forty-Two Stories runs just under two hours with one intermission. Tightening the script into an 80-minute one-act would be beneficial to the comedy and the storyline.
The acting is spotty, with a few solid performances. Annie Hogan stands out as Alice Biasco, the on-the-edge building manager who is armed and dangerous as she deals with complaints from owners. Among the custodial staff, Reginald K. Robinson Jr. as Timothy and Paul Chakrin as Ross are most believable. Robinson is particularly engaging in both delivery and fluid movement.
The other custodians are Martin Diaz-Valdez as Sergio and Robert Vignisson as a hesitant Ed, new to the staff. While changing filters one day, he finds one of the building’s temporary residents (Demetra played by Tara Bouldrey) is an old friend and they renew their friendship. Fred Wellisch plays Gunter, the chief custodian/engineer, who has a touching scene with Ed late one night on the roof. Scott Olson plays Zachary, the condo board president, and a rumpled, disheveled Edward Kuffert plays Frank, the doorman.
The minimalist set design by Judy Radovsky and Anders Jacobson makes good use of four stackable metal chairs and a set of movable doors and walls to create the spatial changes needed.
Forty-Two Stories was first performed as a radio play with L.A. Theatre Works and recently was workshopped as part of Raven Theatre’s New Play Development Series. Post’s other plays include a musical adaptation of Wind in the Willows; Somebody Foreign, a political drama; a one-man thriller, Bloodshot; plus eight other plays and musicals. He’s a founding member of Victory Gardens’ Playwrights Ensemble and a faculty member at Chicago Dramatists.
Forty-Two Stories runs through May 28 at City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., on the second floor of the Edgewater Presbyterian Church. Tickets are $27-32 for shows Friday-Sunday. Call 773-293-3682 for more info. The theater is wheel-chair accessible.