Chicago Theater Review: NO MORE SAD THINGS (Sideshow Theatre Company at Victory Gardens)

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by Lawrence Bommer on November 20, 2015

in Theater-Chicago

AN ABORTED AFFAIR

The “Maui Pipeline,” it seems, has run out of waves. This “co-world premiere” from Boise Contemporary Theater and Chicago’s Sideshow Theatre Company offers an unedifying look at a Hawaiian romance that was just a trick of the tropical light. Playwright Hansol Jung depicts proto-lovers who find themselves first in dreams. But in reality the weaknesses that made each seem to complete the other are too strong to surmount. No More Sad Things (the title alluding to the woman’s desire for a second chance at happiness) is one big frustrated fantasy (and rightly so). It’s as overwrought and underwhelming as the subject suggests.

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At least Elly Green’s sincere staging takes only 80 minutes to deliver an inconsequential liaison between deserving strangers. The setting is the lushly tropical volcanic isle of Maui. Ploddingly played by Katy Carolina Collins, the girl Jessee (too many “e”s is only one of her problems) has escaped the mainland (Akron, Ohio). She’s gone “off the grid,” leaving behind the memory of a lost child, a failed marriage, and a mother whose cancer cost her her legs (and thus Jessee’s complete affection).

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On the shores of Ka’anapali (an odd choice because Jessee fears the ocean) she meets surfer Kahekili (an earnest but unremarkable George Infantado). He’s got daddy issues to match her misery with mom. They make love on the beach, though she hates sand on her skin, and her tampon gets in the way. (Why must we know these things?) They watch the sunrise over Haleakala. The increasingly unlikable Jessee refuses to answer calls from home. It’s all sardonically narrated by Guidebook (Narciso Lobo), a ukulele-playing Polynesian balladeer who registers their regrets. Alas, as soon as these lovers connect, Jessee’s easily ignited “haole” hysteria and Kahekili’s scary impetuosity (he wants to marry her on the spot) lead to suicidal swims and such. They part inevitably, as their brief encounter was not. As a wish, “No more sad things” proves as forlorn as it was naïve.

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Oh, I almost forgot–the anxiety of their separation feeds on one other tiny difference–seventeen years. She’s 32 and he’s 15. Half the show’s flavor depends on the audience munching on forbidden fruit. But, as performed and written, there’s no Blue Lagoon-like erotic exoticism between a mismatched tourist and a local boy, who seems to know no girls his age. Instead Jung gives us pseudo-poetic dialogue and weird disclosures of frog reveries beckoning Jessee to Paradise and breasts being cut off. (This is no Light in the Piazza-style affair to remember.)

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It’s a barren discovery to watch two remarkably ill-suited seekers discover why they never should have met. It’s enough to trigger the worst rhetorical question you can ask after a show: “So what?”

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NoMoreSadThings-6photos by Jonathan L. Green

No More Sad Things
Sideshow Theatre Company
with Boise Contemporary Theater
Victory Gardens, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.
Thurs-Sat at 7:30; Sun at 3:00
ends on December 20, 2015
for tickets, call 773.871.3000
or visit Victory Gardens

for more info on Chicago Theater,
visit Theatre in Chicago

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