April 5th, 2008

The Ascension of Carlotta

Tonight I went to see a very enjoyable new play, The Ascension of Carlotta, by Will Dunne, directed by Ann Filmer.

As the play opens, Carlotta has a new boyfriend, and she is shocked to learn of his unusual ambition: to rob convenience stores.

Not that he has actually robbed any, so far.  But it's his dream.

This may sound either absurdly silly or like a tragedy in the making, but it ends up making for a very touching night of theater.  The playwright spins an engaging story from this offbeat premise.

I know the director, Ann Filmer, just enough to say hello to her.  I've seen her work before, and it has always been first rate.  She gets the most amazing performances out of her actors.  I have no idea how she does it, but she has done it again.

I suppose that Desmin Borges, who plays the aspiring robber, has the hardest role, in the sense that he has to win the sympathy of the audience while making them believe that he dreams of robbing stores.  He manages to pull this off.

But the central character of the play is Carlotta, played exquisitely by Janna Sobel.  As the story opens, Carlotta feels that she is never going to make anything of her life - she has always been a disappointment to her parents, and she feels trapped by her background.  But, as the title suggests, this is the story of how she struggles to rise above her pessimism.

If you happen to live in the Chicago area, I recommend this production.  At 16 bucks a seat, it's a real professional live-theater bargain.  The venue is in the Berwyn Cultural Center, which I had never heard of, but which has a great theater space in the basement.

Nothing can beat
being glued to your seat
by actors just twelve feet
away.