Theatre Seven at Rogue Theater (see Fringe & storefront). By David Mamet and Marisa Wegrzyn. Dir. Brian Golden. With ensemble cast.
Watching Is Chicago is like falling in love with a beautiful Siamese twin whose nagging sister you can’t fucking stand. Pairing two one-acts that take place in Chicago 30 years apart, the new company Theatre Seven matches up David Mamet’s 1974 Sexual Perversity in Chicago with the premiere of Marisa Wegrzyn’s fresh monologue play Diversey Harbor, an attempt to marry old Chicago cool with new Chicago cool. The theatrical problem, of course, is that a staple ingredient of old Chicago cool is a cup of black-and-blue misogyny. Mamet’s short “comedy” about two horny lunkheads who can’t communicate with women doesn’t just feel dated because of its chest-thumping content; somehow its jump-cut aggression stymies these young actors worse than a storefront Greek tragedy might.
When they return from intermission, though, the same four transform completely to perform Wegrzyn’s quartet of interlocking stories that concern an unsolved murder and a missing dog. The latest in a series of new one-acts that adopt form for a reason (New Orleans, Harmless, Another Day in the Empire), Diversey Harbor hauntingly and humorously takes on the daily minutiae of North Siders in their early twenties (there’s an overeducated dog walker, a directionless performance artist) without giving you the sinking feeling that the playwright knows nothing else. Golden’s actors do unfussy, engaging work so convincingly that you can briefly forget the evening’s first half and wonder what the gifted Wegrzyn and Theatre Seven will collaborate on next. If only the two plays attached at the hip didn’t call for some ether and a scalpel.—Christopher Piatt