Feature

Cherrywood

In a production that pushes the boundaries of live theater, director David Cromer has assembled nearly 50 actors to enact Kirk Lynn's play about a party.

Mary-Arrchie TheatreChicago(773) 871-0442

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Sitting through director David Cromer’s Cherrywood “is like being at a party with strangers who won’t talk to you,” said Justin Hayford in the Chicago Reader. Cromer, whose recent take on Thornton Wilder’s Our Town has established him as a bold theatrical innovator, always aims to put the audience in the center of the action. Here he and playwright Kirk Lynn take that ethos to a new extreme—assembling nearly 50 actors who “enact a drunken housewarming party full of banal, elliptical, pretentious, seemingly random dialogue.” The party progresses as such parties do—accelerating levels of intoxication, spontaneous dancing, and potential for chaos—and for 90 true-to-life minutes, Cromer finds “psychological depth in the all-night party as transformational ritual.”

Cromer and crew’s you-are-there approach captures the feel of such parties “with total precision,” said Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune. As the players congregate in small groups, we overhear snippets of their eccentric, witty, and at times neurotic conversations. “Parties are like trains,” says one attendee. “You want to sit with someone beautiful. And if all those seats are taken, you want to sit with someone familiar.” Another announces: “I don’t like to argue, I just like good conversation.” All in all, you have to admit that Cromer has achieved a level of “hyper-realistic accuracy you’ve never quite seen before.” But that effect falls apart when a partygoer suddenly pulls out a gun, a move that feels forced and, frankly, out of place.

Cherrywood works better as a “meditation on group dynamics” than it does as a “locked-room murder mystery,” said Kris Vire in Time Out ­Chicago. Lynn apparently introduced a bit of violence in order to provide the party’s young slackers with a chance to make good on their high-minded talk about social change. Though he and Cromer can’t quite pull off the trick of turning their theatrical happening into an ambitious social statement, Cherrywood for the most part proves successful in pushing the boundaries of live theater. Like a good party, it’s an experience you’ll be talking about the next day.

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