Chicago Theater Review: IF YOU SPLIT A SECOND (Pegasus Players)

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by Lawrence Bommer on May 8, 2013

in Theater-Chicago


Within the messy, overwritten and frustrating new script, If You Split A Second, is a potentially interesting premise: In an instant of unthinking and reflexive violence a Lawrence bommer's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of Pegasus Players' "If You Split a Second."man can obey his demons; yet in doing so, he can destroy not just his future but the welfare of his loved ones.

Not that you didn’t know this already, but that revelation is hidden deep inside a whirlwind of excess exposition and jumbled chronology that constitute Dana Lynn Formby’s indulgent two-act world premiere at Pegasus Players. It’s a pointless tour-de-force for two actors — Stephanie Chavara and Dylan McGorty – who play six roles and three generations in this pell-mell play made all the more confusing due to rapid transitions.

Lawrence bommer's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of Pegasus Players' "If You Split a Second."McGorty depicts Mick, the designated perpetrator of so much mayhem. This troubled, tattooed Alpha male is a welder in Cheyenne, Wyoming who murders his sister’s boyfriend and in effect abandons his family when sent to prison. The violence is quickly passed over for less enlightening discoveries. Maddeningly, we never sense what choices Mick had other than succumb to his testosterone-fueled rage, either before the crime or when he leaves jail, when he continues the cycle of violence on his granddaughter’s fiancé. Saying you’re sorry isn’t enough. Anyway, with equal randomness, Mick’s wife marries his lawyer brother and takes over the two kids Mick forfeited when he killed on impulse.

Lawrence bommer's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of Pegasus Players' "If You Split a Second."With deftness and spunk to equal McGorty, Chavara plays Mick’s wife, daughter and granddaughter, reflecting representative responses to the reckless and impossible men in their love lives; but with the rushed delivery of diffuse dialogue that lurches from poetry-slam lyricism to hard-boiled, blue-collar small talk, the action and its sometimes contrived crises turns incoherent. What’s the point of so much irrelevant banter, like showy allusions to Pompeii’s destruction and the Yellowstone caldera? This play needs editing as plants do water. Ilesa Duncan’s stream-of-consciousness staging only emphasizes the novelistic abandon of a drama with too many narrators and no center to speak of.

Lawrence bommer's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of Pegasus Players' "If You Split a Second."

photos by Andre Walker

If You Split a Second
Pegasus Players
Leo Lerner Theater, 4520 N. Beacon Street
scheduled to end on June 2, 2013
for tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit


Phil Z May 9, 2013 at 7:47 am

I disagree with you. I had no problem following the chronology of the play, nor did I have any problems following the two actors through the different characters they play- yes, they change characters quickly, but the characters were distinct and each offered an interesting and unique perspective on the story being told. Even the characters you never see on stage, like Danny, had a presence that seemed to make the story bigger, more whole.

When it comes to what choice Mick had other than to succumb to violence in the beginning, it seems clear to me that his other choice would have been to not be violent and to allow the (putting it mildly) caustic and verbally abusive situation to continue to happen to his sister. As an audience member I found I could empathize with Mick’s decision (not condone it maybe, but definitely empathize) and this choice sets up the rest of the story to see the mushroom cloud that comes from that one split-second decision, and it’s a cloud that lingers for years and hangs over every single character in the play.

I also loved the language. There are many references to volcanoes in the play, which (to me) served as apt metaphors for many of the characters- these are people who are under difficult circumstances and a lot of pressure, and it seems to be only a matter of time before there’s some sort of eruption coming from the group (and indeed that eruption does come at the climax of the play). I didn’t see this language as being overly poetic or irrelevant at all, I thought it gave each character a unique voice that in turn helped to articulate their internal struggles and ultimately tell their story better.

I highly recommend this play to anyone who is considering going to see it. The two actors do give a tour-de-force performance while telling a very interesting story about the choices made by a family (and specifically one man’s choice that sets off the chain reaction- actually now that I think about it, the metaphor of an atom bomb is very apt for this play, since we see that explosive chain reaction rip a nuclear family apart- a nuclear explosion if you will pardon me) who find themselves in an extremely difficult and prolonged situation. It all adds up to a very satisfying evening of theater.

Kim sabo May 24, 2013 at 8:41 pm

I just saw this play and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had no trouble following the transitions, but instead was thoroughly impressed with both the actors and script’s ability to portray a multitude of very credible characters and relationships. In addition, I appreciated the occasionally poetic insights in the dialogue. The night I went, the audience gave a standing ovation. Very worthwhile.

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