Monday, December 10, 2018

This is the End?: Driven by a Fantastic Performance, Wendy Schmidt's 'Maker of Worlds' Opens Doors of Self-Perception -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

Maker of Worlds
by Wendy Schmidt
directed by Jeri Frederickson
Three Cat Productions
at Berger Park Coach House, Chicago
Thru December 29

I guess I like things to make perfect sense.

Not so much in terms of entertainment and art, but in real life.

Where of course, there's a shitload of absurdity going on, and that's a kind word for it.

So it's rather logical that talented writers would choose reflect this inanity in contemporary plays, as does Wendy Schmidt--who happens to be a friend of mine--in a one-woman piece (in which she doesn't perform) called Maker of Worlds.

In the world premiere by Three Cat Productions, a truly terrific Amy Gorelow stars initially as Martha, who as I ultimately deduced, is God.

Or at least, a god.

Capable of making worlds, as conveyed by a mock cooking demonstration, she is haunted by a tempestuous affair (or at least, infatuation) with the mythological Jim Morrison, is contemptuous of a certain disgraced Illinois governor and when truly pissed off--be it by Sodom & Gomorroh or her accountant husband--seeks to wreak destruction on planet Earth.

But others get a say in the matter, including said husband, Warren, a capitalist pig also seen as something of a deity--who said reality and absurdity don't conflate?--whom Gorelow hilariously imbues with Sam Kinisonesque powder-keg cantankerousness.

Another god, Liz, attempts to quell Martha's ire with yoga instructor Zen, and--without wanting to reveal much more--let's just say the spirit of Mr. Mojo Risin' eventually breaks on through.

It's all quite creative and wonderfully enacted by Gorelow, so as to be soundly entertaining across roughly 70 minutes.

Especially as I'm somewhat familiar with Schmidt's worldview, even amid all the absurdity--a tad too much for me to truly embrace--there's enjoyable satire about uber-capitalism, male dominance, rock icons and, well, the world we've made.

The confusion Martha shares regarding the betrayal of a friend is also rather poignant.

So there's more than enough here to be worth your $20--or less through Goldstar--even if it doesn't all congeal perfectly.

Or, through my Doors of perception, completely sensibly.

After the performance we saw on Saturday, my friend Bob cited a couple of famously absurdist playwrights--Christopher Durang and Eugene Ionesco--of whose work he was reminded.

In some ways, comparisons to these paragons validated my sense that theatrical absurdity isn't my foremost cup of tea, as I didn't love Goodman Theater's 2015 production of Durang's Tony-winning Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

And despite high hopes, I also wasn't entirely enamored by Ionesco's Victims of Duty, seen in July at Red Orchid Theatre.

But I still loved seeing the latter show due simply to a remarkable performance by one of the world's best actors, Michael Shannon--along with a terrific cast--so although I didn't "get" all that was going on, it was still highly rewarding to absorb.

Something rather similar can be said about Maker of Worlds.

It's a bit complex, confusing and manic, but Gorelow is worth the price of admission--alone--and I assume a lack of acute understanding may well be part of the point.

So above and beyond my appreciation for a friend's creation, consider this a recommendation to get over to Berger Park before "The End" of December.

And when the music's over, turn out the lights. 

Performances of Maker of Worlds are Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30 pm and Saturdays at 1:00 pm. 

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