Chicago Theater Review: REGARDING THE JUST (Trap Door Theatre)

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by Paul Kubicki on June 15, 2014

in Theater-Chicago


Trap Door’s Regarding the Just shakes the dust off of Camus’ 1949 play, Les Justes, about Russian socialists who assassinate a Grand Duke at the turn of the century. As their plan comes to fruition, each of the revolutionaries contemplates the nature REGARDING THE JUST at Trap Door Theatre.and extent to which they are committed to justice, and whether such a commitment has any ethical boundaries. It feels more like a philosophical work than a play, and the language of Pascal Collin & Nicholas Le Guevel’s translation is particularly stiff.

Trap Door attempts to remedy this by telling the story through the lens of an underground rock band. Joanna Iwanicki’s simple stage is modeled on a garage/practice room, the stoner vibes complete with the marijuana-like incense. Each of the revolutionaries is a member of the band, their instrument representative of their role in the assassination. Valéry Warnotte’s direction is almost Brechtian—the band members regularly speak directly to the audience to try to convince them of their own conviction; unlike Brecht, their affinities are very dynamic. Also, the band regularly breaks into song to deliver some of Camus’ central aphorisms.

REGARDING THE JUST at Trap Door TheatreThe extent to which this interpretation works varies, though at its best, it’s quite good. The love song between Yanek and Dora (Antonio Brunetti and Nicole Wiesner) is exceptionally haunting, bringing emotional resonance to abstract text. We see that these characters’ commitment to justice renders them incapable of realizing other important aspects of their lives: Might true love of justice preclude romantic love, since one involves commitment to the universal and the other to the particular? Through a single song, this question emerges as one of the most pressing of the play.

Scene from Trap Door Theatre's REGARDING THE JUST.However, other moments try a bit too hard, undercutting much of the established urgency and meaning. Midway through the show, the band dons Guy Fawkes masks and sings “We All Live in a Terrorist Regime” to the tune of “Yellow Submarine.” This not only does not work; it is such a transparent attempt to make the play more visceral and relevant that it actually distances the audience from the play, which is otherwise quite visceral and relevant. Though this song is the worst offender, there are multiple other culprits.

Much is rescued by the ensemble’s commitment, with particularly notable performances from Brunetti and Weisner. Trap Door’s take on Camus is quite ambitious, but sometimes gets lost in its own edginess. The result is spotty— it’s a highly compelling look into the minds of insurgent socialists, but like most things that call themselves revolutionary, it takes things a bit too far.

photos by Heather Stumpf

Regarding the Just
Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W Cortland St
Thurs-Sat at 8, Sun at 3
scheduled to end on July 5, 2014
for tickets, call 773-384-0494 or visit Trap Door

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

{ 1 comment }

Casey June 15, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Congrats to Trap Door! And to Nicholas Tonozzi for the music – not mentioned in the review. New work from the Jeff Award winner from Oracles’ “The Mother.” So happy Trap Door is still providing us new and exciting European flair you cannot find anywhere else! Bravo.

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