Sketchbook Reverb at Collaboraction | Theater review
Collaboraction’s retrospective of playlets from ten years of Sketchbook feels strangely small.
Collaboraction inaugurates its new space in Wicker Park’s Flat Iron Arts Building with a retrospective, marking ten years of its annual Sketchbook festival of bite-size playlets. There’s no apparent rhyme or reason to the works chosen by Collaboraction artistic director Moseley (who, in a departure from the practice of the annual fest, stages the entire evening). The eight pieces tend toward both the recent—only one, Ellen Fairey’s Tuning in El Paso, predates 2005—and the small: Eschewing the often indulgent sprawl of Sketchbook proper, six of the eight plays on the Reverb slate have casts of two actors or fewer.
Presumably that’s a practical concern (Moseley again departs from the usual formula by using eight recurring actors rather than separate casts). But it also suggests a limitation of the form: Half of the pieces here, including El Paso, Lisa Dillman’s My Yeti Dreams, Ira Gamerman’s Dated: A Cautionary Tale for Facebook Users and Stephen Cone’s I’ll Never Tell You, are what might be called assisted monologues. In Cone’s 2005 play, a man (H.B. Ward) makes a series of confessions to the body of his recently deceased wife (Laura Shatkus, lying in state); in Dillman’s piece from the same year, a woman (Shatkus) tells a fanciful story about her romantic relationship with a Sasquatch (Ward). I found Gamerman’s projection-augmented solo work, in which a young man (Dan Krall) obsesses over an ex on the social network, hilariously timely in 2008; now, when everybody’s grandma is on Facebook, it seems to over-explain (and its references to MySpace and LiveJournal just seem, well, dated). Most of these seven-minute snacks still charm, but Reverb misses Sketchbook’s sense of aggregate scale.