Chicago Theater Review: GOOD FOR OTTO (The Gift Theatre in Jefferson Park)

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by Barnaby Hughes on October 12, 2015

in Theater-Chicago

WHAT’S GOOD FOR OTTO ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH FOR GIFT

review-good-for-otto-the-gift-theatre-R-9WMZsYSeldom have I sat through such a long-winded play (nearly three hours!) that said so little. I struggled in vain to find some deeper meaning in David Rabe’s Good for Otto. Instead it just seems to be filled with all the usual tired tropes of counselor-patient dramas—just barely entertaining enough to keep me from falling asleep.

This world premiere production of Tony Award-winner Rabe’s latest drama might be named Good for Otto, but it’s not good for anyone, not least The Gift Theatre Company—a waste of their considerable talents. Director Michael Patrick Thornton does his best with Rabe’s flabby script, but neither he nor his gifted cast is able to salvage this depressing litany of human misery.

review-good-for-otto-the-gift-theatre-L-OA5LcqGood for Otto centers on Dr Robert Michaels, earnestly played by John Gawlik, and his colleague Evangeline Ryder (Lynda Newton). Their motley cast of misfit patients ranges from the sociopathic to the suicidal. Some of them are rather comic, such as John Kelly Connolly’s Timothy Archer and Rob Riley’s Barnard, while others are wholly tragic, especially teenage actress Caroline Heffernan’s Frannie Bascome.

The only thing that distinguishes this inconclusive drama is the ghostly character known as Mom, played by Brittany Burch. Is she merely a figment of Dr. Michaels’ imagination or the spirit of his suicidal mother? Whoever she is, Mom isn’t a very compelling character. In one scene she spouts some (intentionally?) pretentious nonsense about “thoughts”.

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Perhaps the most annoying thing about Rabe’s Good for Otto is the overuse of monologue, particularly at the beginning. Combine that with the continual breaking down of the fourth wall, as characters turn away from each other to address the audience, and you end up with an overly didactic drama that has few, if any, pearls of wisdom to impart.

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review-good-for-otto-the-gift-theatre-L-PDkMD_photos © Claire Demos

Good for Otto
The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave
Thurs-Sat at 7:30; Sun at 2:30
ends on November 22, 2015
EXTENDED to February 7, 2016
for tickets, call 773.283.7071 or visit TheGiftTheatre.org

for info on more Chicago Theater, visit TheatreinChicago.com

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack November 18, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Dear Mr. Hughes and Stage and Cinema:

Your review of this production is correct. Though speckled with some nice performances, it is a long and overwrought play. Thank you reviewing this honestly and boldly.

Reply

Aaron E. Muss November 24, 2015 at 9:43 pm

I’d like to add my kudos for the quality of this review. I can’t help wondering if the reviews elsewhere would have been so positive if the play had been written by an unknown.

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