Chicago Theater Review: VICES and VIRTUES (Profiles)

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by Barnaby Hughes on January 26, 2016

in Theater-Chicago


One of the advantages of one-act plays is that if they’re bad, you don’t have to wait long for them to be over. (I can’t ever remember wishing a good play would go on longer.) Fortunately, Neil LaBute’s Vices and Virtues isn’t at all bad. Some of the shorts are less interesting than others, but there isn’t a weak one among them. In fact, at least half of them are excellent and one is outstanding.

VICES 8009 - Lovely Head - (l to r) Marilyn Bass, Steve Silver VICES 8074 - The Great War - (l to r) Elizabeth Birnkrant, Brian Goodman

Vices and Virtues comprises two programs of dialogue-driven one-act plays exploring the vagaries of human behavior. Vices numbers five shorts, Virtues six. Each program lasts about two and a half hours with a single intermission. It’s worth pointing out that there’s nothing obviously moral or immoral about either one, so don’t go to Vices expecting it to be juicier. Both programs are mixed, full of gray areas, much like real life.

VIRTUES 0789 - Kandahar - (l to r) Drew HallidayVIRTUES 8355 - Romance - (l to r) Patrick Gannon

There is some diversity among the plays, at least in terms of comedy/tragedy and gay/straight. Ethnic diversity, however, is conspicuously lacking. Typical LaBute themes are explored, such as love, sex, and romance. Every short has its own director and cast with no overlap between any of the plays. Moreover, each program has one monologue play, while the others have just two actors.

VIRTUES 8382 - Swallowing Bicycles - (l to r) Rob Grabowski, Laura Berner Taylor VIRTUES 8490 - The Mulberry Bush - (l to r) Tim Curtis, Adam Soule

Perhaps the most original and outstanding one-act is “10-K,” part of the Virtues program. It features two strangers heading out for a run who decide to accompany one another. As they get to know one another, they discover that they’re both parents with young children and difficult spouses, as well as unfulfilled needs. Played by Betsy Bowman and Tom McGregor, “10-K” is bristling with sexual tension.

VIRTUES 8525 - 10-K - (l to r) Tom McGregor, Betsy Bowman“Good Luck (in Farsi),” another Virtues play, depicts two young actresses waiting at a casting call. Sarah Brooks and Sarah Ruggles, masters of the catty remark and the fake smile, alternate between bitchy and friendly, providing plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Tamara Chambers plays a bubbly, Valley Girl-type in “Totally,” the monologue play in Vices. She easily holds our attention with tales of infidelity and pregnancy, all delivered with infectious good humor.

Rather than read my description of every one of them, go and be surprised. There’s much to enjoy and to be challenged by in each program. And who knows, Vices and Virtues might even inspire VIRTUES 8311 - Good Luck (in Farsi) - (l to r) Sarah Brooks, Sarah Rugglesyou to be a better person.

photos by Michael Brosilow

Vices / Virtues
Profiles Theatre
The Alley Stage, 4147 N. Broadway
Thurs at 8; Sat at 4; Sun at 7 (Vices)
Fri & Sat at 8; Sun at 3 (Virtues)
ends on March 6, 2016
for tickets, call 773.549.1815 or visit Profiles

for more Chicago theater info,
visit Theatre in Chicago

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