Review

The Importance of Not Being Earnest Absent in Walkabout’s The Brink

Cooper Forsman, Katie Mazzini, Dana Murphy, Nigel Brown, Alex Rodriguez and McCambridge Dowd-Whipple (Evan Barr Photography)

Writing teachers ask their fledgling essayists to answer the question: “So what? Why write this? What’s the point?”

Theater artists also should have a similar rubric for plays. Walkabout’s music, movement and muttering pastiche The Brink! Or Nobody’s Ever Kissed Me Like That… eschews that self-policing in this navel-gazing exercise.

The production’s bona fides are impressive—many cultural partners, tours to Dartmouth College, Krakow, Poland, and soon to Mumbai and New Delhi—but the material is philosophically dense. Background articles even include publications on process from academic journals. Ontology onstage is quizzical and indulgent.

Seven eager, mostly white performers scurry around “a café at the edge of the world, on the brink of existence,” offering snippets of songs (on-the-nose selections like Billy Joel’s “The Stranger,” Esquivel-esque jazz, and a Styx song to drive home the watery, stygian content), a matador leitmotif and Gertrude Stein poetry while propelling themselves around a sparse set of tables, exercising choreography and contact improvisation/physical theater moves.

The play (under the direction of Thom Pasculli, a co-creator with the ensemble) is framed by a black grand piano, played by gender-fluid Pasculli (a la Cabaret’s Emcee), and a bar, tended by Cooper Forsman, who also plays the transistor radio/Theremin.

A Greek chorus of three women shoulder most singing responsibilities (under vocal specialist Fides Krucker), and have good voices, but to what end? A millennial “No Exit” reboot with sylphs, a sailor and seagulls? “A conspiracy to keep me in short pants?” one asks.

Chicago storefront theater is a young person’s game, and this 70-minute production is like a senior project, full of vim and vigor asking, “What happens now…here on the brink?” instead of “What’s the point?”

Walkabout Theater Company’s U.S. premiere of The Brink! Or Nobody’s Ever Kissed Me Like That… runs at Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave., through March 30. Shows are Monday and Thursday-Sunday at 7pm. Tickets are $20 ($10 for students).

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