Oh to be 35 again – and experiencing Chicago theater for the first time. Sender, by Chicago playwright Ike Holter, would have sent me to the moon. This play is well crafted; the acting is excellent; the direction sharp and coherent; the stage and the theater small and gritty.
But, it’s 30 years later and we’ve been there, done that. Guess this is part of the price of seniority – not much wows us. However, this play and Steep’s The Few are the best we have seen this summer.
We saw Holter’s Exit Strategy last summer at the Jackalope Theater. It dealt with Chicago teachers facing the closing of their high school – a reality in the Chicago Public School District. It, too, was well written, but Sender shows growth and maturity - also a better troop of actors.
Interesting that both Sender and The Few begin with the surprise appearance of the male central character who has disappeared for one and four years. Did the authors attend the same workshop? It is an interesting device for introducing all sorts of mayhem.
There is an extended sequence in this play where the two male characters, one the returnee and the other the bereft best friend, rebond. The language and action seemed so real and true (lots of beer involved, of course) that I asked DBH after the performance how, as a man, he felt about the scene. He confirmed my reaction.
Like The Few, Sender deals with characters living on the fringe - in this case, artsy, marginally employed millennials. One works at Groupon. Ever read their offer descriptions? Groupon prides itself on employing Chicago artsy folks, especially actors who need day jobs. They are given license in writing up offers, often resulting in unintelligible jargon probably fun and funny to their cronies. They make good grist for the playwright.