Entertainment » Theatre

The Monster in the Hall

by Christine Malcom
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Sep 24, 2014
Christian Libonati, Molly Bunder and Andrew Marchetti
Christian Libonati, Molly Bunder and Andrew Marchetti   (Source:Kenji Kerins)

Filament Theatre has been a fixture in Chicago for seven years, but their hilarious, energetic production of Scotland-based playwright David Greig's "Monster in the Hall" marks the play's Midwest Premiere and the company's triumphant opening of their new home in the Six Corners Shopping District.

Greig's madcap play tells the story of Duck Macatarsney, an awkward, teenaged aspiring writer who is trying to keep her very rickety household together in the face of her father's MS, a looming visit from Child Services, and a strange bit of blackmail from the boy of her very modest dreams. The text dips in and out of well-known stories, borrowing and remaking tropes along the way.

A cast of just four plays both the main characters as well as unexpected visitors ranging from a Fairy Badmother to a Norwegian anarcho-feminist, and the show demands impeccable comic timing as well as dramatic and musical chops. It's quite easy to see how the driving, farcical pace and the dizzying, nonlinear scenes could fall apart. Fortunately, director Julie Ritchey (also Filament's Artistic Director), choreographer Mara Dale, composer/music director Robert Deason, and the actors are more than up to the challenge.

Eleanor Kahn's set comprises three whimsically painted platforms of differing heights, gangplanks leading on to the set from all four sides, a hand of microphone stands, a few chairs and an upright piano. The actors take turns providing accompaniment when someone feels a song coming on, and the mic stands double as doors to the house, the closet, the hall with the monster in it and, eventually, the motorbikes for the climactic chase scene.

As Duck's withdrawn, pot-smoking, suddenly blind father, Duke, Andrew Marchetti is masterfully sympathetic. He plays the role's black humor deftly and none of the laughs he draws ever feels cheap.

Kristof Janezic's deceptively simply lighting design adds both to the carnival atmosphere and ably assists in keeping places and plot points straight when the story doubles back on itself, offering elaboration on and alternative unfoldings of the play's most crucial and poignant moments.

Each member of the cast is truly exceptional, despite exceptionally demanding material. As Duck, Lindsey Dorcus moves ably between moments where the much-put-upon girl is capable and wise beyond her years and those by which she is painfully undone and unprepared for the absurd things life throws at her. As Duck's withdrawn, pot-smoking, suddenly blind father, Duke, Andrew Marchetti is masterfully sympathetic. He plays the role's black humor deftly and none of the laughs he draws ever feels cheap.

Molly Bunder and Christian Libonati orbit the Macatarsney family in their multiple roles. Bunder keeps Linda Underhill, Child Services Inspector, skillfully balanced on the edge of too good to be true and throws herself with abandon into the role of Agnetha, whose avatar walks side-by-side with Duke's as he transcends his failing body in an online world.

Libonati is perfectly nasty as the Fairy constantly pecking at Duck just when it seems like she might just pull off the caper called life. He also manages a blend of sneer and touching uncertainty with Lawrence, Duck's love interest, that he's never unsympathetic, even in his very worst moments.

"Monster in the Hall" runs through October 26 at the Filament Theatre, 4041 N. Milwaukee, Chicago. For tickets or information, call 651-895-3124 or visit www.filamenttheatre.org.

Christine Malcom is a Lecturer in Anthropology at Roosevelt University and Adjunct Faculty in Liberal Arts and Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a physical anthropologist, theater geek, and all-around pop culture enthusiast.


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