Chicago Theatre Review: POOL (NO WATER) (Greenhouse Theatre)

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by Paul Kubicki on August 29, 2012

in Theater-Chicago


A group of bad artists resent their (dare I say) “frenemy” because she is a more successful artist than they are, and because she is “distant.” The group takes pleasure when she has a near death accident, and find a darker side of art and of themselves during her recovery. In Vitalist’s production of Mark Ravenhill’s pool (no water), the script’s meager plot is interrupted by sessions of contact improv—a fancy name for running around stage and ungracefully bouncing off of walls to music. There may be instances in which contact improv could work, but at the Greenhouse Theatre, it doesn’t. It feels more indulgent than emotive, and it fails to create powerful visuals or even to feel organic. If anything, it detracts from both the story and the performances by interrupting the few compelling moments.

Paul Kubicki's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of pool (no water) at Greenhouse

It is evident from the outset that British playwright Ravenhill thinks his pool (no water) is somehow insightful about the ethos of this art-group, but its grandiose aesthetic is too deeply at variance with its soiled subject matter. It dabbles in schadenfreude, rape, and murderous ill will—and yet  never really escapes basic moral dualism, or gives us any insight into the portrayed artists’ psyche beyond that some are “big people,” and some are “small people.” There are “jealous” people and “not jealous” people. The content may be adult swim, but in terms of depth, it’s in the kitty pool.

Paul Kubicki's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of pool (no water) at Greenhouse

The one redeeming quality this production has are a few strong performances. Meghan Reardon and Anne Sheridan Smith offer intense, raging monologues that are exceptionally compelling, if not all that deep. Antonio Brunetti has quickly become one of my favorite actors in the Chicago area, and while this certainly isn’t his best work, he’s still quite good in his role. And while the cast feels like a cohesive ensemble, at times adding a compelling group dynamic, they cannot escape a poor script and Liz Carlin Metz’s mediocre direction, which doesn’t deliver on visceral quality and shock value, the only things that might have kept this production alive.

Paul Kubicki's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of pool (no water) at Greenhouse

I’m all for Vitalist Theatre moving towards fringe-like, exciting, and cutting edge work, which is, I’m sure, what they were reaching for here. But this production doesn’t push or challenge the audience; nor does it dive into uncharted territory.

Paul Kubicki's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of pool (no water) at Greenhouse

for the review of pool (no water) in Los Angeles, click here.

photos by Anthony Aicardi

pool (no water)
Vitalist Theatre
The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
ends on September 30, 2012
for tickets, call 773.404.7336 or visit Greenhouse

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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