Patient: 25/25 Anniversary Show
Legal Guardians: Director Beata Pilch, Playwrights: lots
Surname: Trap Door Theatre
Address: 1655 W Cortland St, Chicago, IL 60622
Insurance: Bookmarx Medical
Symptoms: mythic, absurd, raw
Diagnosis: Too spooky
Sixteen years ago, I knew a little mortal who’s stepdaddy took his mommy on a first date to the Trap Door Theatre. As a darling Brazilian Christian, the mommy was immediately unsettled by the goth atmosphere of the lobby. When the troupe started slamming a doll baby against a table repeatedly, she was done. She was almost done with the stepdaddy, too. They were happily married at the nearby Saint Mary’s cathedral a year later. The Trap Door Theatre almost ruined someone’s family and thus, their life.
Through the Cortland gangway, the Trap Door Theater has been playing for 25 years. This year I’ve been breaking records on the small sizes of black box theaters in Chicago. The Trap Door has only four rows of audience members with a stage in the corner: cuatro. I was content to be greeted with a complimentary beer by the director herself, Beata Pilch, while the theater quickly filled. Thank you!
There was a pre-show documentary that visually narrated 25 years at the Trap Door. They’ve done a lot of fucked up shit in great taste, man. They are true American-European tragedians that deserve the highest esteem for their ironic work. I didn’t catch the name, but their early previous show with two men injecting drugs in a derelict washroom shocked me as the actor shot up via ass cheek. Their convulsing, greasy, weeping bodies were a rare experience in the theater’s art of living. The miserable mise-en-scene may seem simplistic, but it was organic and nourishing because of the old actors’ talent: raw and accessible like a bitter vegetable.
The show started with the players already getting ready at the far edges of the stage. Madman & the Nun was a disaster in dialogue. It was explicit and undramatique. It was the worst opener possible. Keith Surney’s energy quickly rebalanced from the somber fumble. Road to Nirvana was an awesome late ‘90s vid with something about a homo woman, maybe? It was just awesome, like young-adult-late-‘90s awesome. Can someone please link me the video? It was awesome…
I sensed that many dead moments were not a result of my misunderstanding, but a failure to launch. I’d prefer the patient’s legal guardians be more economical with their irreverent leaps. There were times where I didn’t feel invited amidst the ritualistic absurdity. Because the show was a timeline, I already saw improvement from the legal guardian over the years on the issue. If I was writing in this tricky territory, I would have a notebook full of justifications for every ambitious and recherché line to back myself up against this criticism.
I’m not gunna lie. There were many misfires. The song about going to the bathroom in the lobby’s literal trap door played by Holly Cerney tickled a chortle; then it was a check-the-time frown along. Crazy Locomotive ‘00/’05 was when their absurdity completely backfired. I understand that it showed random scenes out of context, but my handsome head was too dizzy to find a rational through line. A Couple of Poor Polish Speaking Romanians had a robust script structure, but was very crude in execution. It was not funny, then offensive. Fairy Tale Lives of Russian Girls made up for this callused European flop with some perspective.
Let’s run down the line: Mike Steele is a smooth pedophile with his trumpet and musical instrument; Leslie Ruettiger is veritably adroit at crying like a worthless bitch; Dennis Bisto is shitty Romanian: who is shit; Antonio Brunetti is a pompous, sacrilegious asshole; I-don’t-know-what-the-fuck-is-the-continuity-of-Holly-Cerney’s-psychology-something-about-a-Russian-circus-and-little-girls; John Kahara is a Hallmark card transvestite; Ann Sonneville has too much talent with talking to herself; Keith Surney and the Painted Eyebrows.
Honestly, I’m ready to snipe this theater on a bad day. Their anniversary show was impossibly vivid but I’d like to see them on a regular night when my scalpel is hungry for healing and the abstractions run dry. In a sense, their actors are cheating, because they have a constant access to the high-octane absurd. That is what their dark piety curiously grants them. I’d like to see Brunetti Atticus Finch himself out of a paper bag. He can do it.