How to describe A Packet of Holiness and Joy Will Come to You? (A Fable)? It’s a funny and curious theater piece being staged by Curious Theatre Branch at its home base, Prop Thtr on North Elston. It’s the kind of curious you’d expect from Beau O’Reilly, one of Chicago’s lesser known creative treasures who wrote and staged the production. It’s 65 minutes of fun that’s another example of the magic of live theater—an event you experience with other people, rather than alone on your couch.
The white-maned O’Reilly, his hair somewhat restrained in a pony tail, plays a Minor Writer in a Major City and other characters. He ‘s joined by five other actors who play people in urban revolt or personal tragedy, staged in a series of short disjointed scenes separated by blasts on a plastic whistle.
Jefferson (Miles Sennett) is distraught because his parents are getting divorced. His mother Marion (Vicki Walden) takes him to a fancy restaurant for dinner and later he talks with his father (Timothy Rey), who is obsessed with remembering the fifth Marx brother and the sixth Monty Python. Rey also plays a waiter and possibly Frank Langella?, which incites a running debate about how his last name is pronounced: hard g or soft?
Sennett, Tor Warren and Brook Celeste play the Flotsam and Jetsam Gang, revolutionaries trying to save the city through radical recycling and a diet of things you wouldn’t want to eat. Walden also plays Cliff the Lyft Driver, who in a couple of scenes practices for a new career as a public speaker (to minimal applause). The versatile Walden also is Button Bright, a childlike character who tells us repeatedly that she has no parents.
A Packet of Holiness is very much DIY theater. Most of the props (Julie Williams) are cut from corrugated board. Characters make quick persona changes with the aid of clever hats and caps (made by Kate O’Reilly). Locations are sometimes cued by handwritten titles on rally signs. There’s some music with Sennett picking on a banjo for accompaniment. The script has funny bits and amusing lines and the performers all show their versatility. (Note: there’s plenty of happiness but no holiness or any sign of the winter holidays in the production.)
Prop Thtr’s storefront has two comfy lobby areas with an assortment of orphan furniture, including old theater seats, bar stools and an upright piano. Go alone or go with friends; get there early and have a drink before the show.
Beau O’Reilly is co-founder of the Curious Theatre Branch, Maestro Subgum and the Whole, and a curator for Rhinofest, the Rhinoceros Theatre Festival, Chicago’s fringiest fringe fest, which will celebrate its 31st year in 2020.
A Packet of Holiness and Joy Will Come to You? (A Fable) continues through December 1 at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston. Tickets are $15 or pay what you can.