By Emilie Modaff
Going into “The Light Fantastic,” written by Ike Holter and directed by Gus Menary, I expected the following: storylines my body and brain didn’t know they were in need of, quick dialogue that makes every actor go “damnit I need this script because the monologues,” references to Chicago culture, expertly crafted digs at the state of our country, and a framework informed by Holter’s experience as a person of color. Emma Couling writes in a NewCity feature on Holter, “He’s given us a voice, a style, and a saga that pushes back against the “gritty,” “white man angrily throws chair” theater reputation we’ve had for years.” Thank goddess for that. To this, I raise my La Croix.
Gus Menary directs “The Light Fantastic”, a thrilling world premiere, with precision. Each actor is fully alive--living and breathing their storylines, remaining grounded in a world that feels like The X-Files meets Stranger Things with a healthy sprinkle of Twin Peaks. The show begins and ends with a collective gasp. I sunk my teeth into this delicious theatrical experience and devoured it like a goddamn overpriced maple-bacon donut from Stan’s. I wish I could regurgitate this maple-bacon play and eat it again.
The plot? Eh. I’d rather tell you how this show made me feel instead of rehashing what I hope you’ll go experience yourself. I’ll say this: the devil is a white man, death is inevitable, and nothing is free.
Here are my top 10 reasons you need to buy tickets to this show like...
45 minutes ago:
1. Diego Colón, one of the funniest dudes in Chicago. It felt to me like Gus directed him in a way that allowed him to elaborate on the Diego we already know and love. Believable is an understatement. If you don’t know Diego Colón...why?
2. The special fx that made me go “k, but how?” Swinging chandeliers, rattling wall decor, a ghost door with a mind of its own...I’m so into it.
3. Brianna Buckley (Hariet), who I now have an admiration crush on, for her literal perfect delivery, timing, and charm. And honesty and warmth and depth. Ever seen an actor deliver a monologue so hilarious that the audience bursts into applause? She is giving us strong-survivor-standupcomedian realness.
4. Visceral audience reactions. From everyone. We were a damn family after that experience.
5. A reference to Capricorns.
6. Some meta lines that aren’t too meta. Like a solid amount of meta.
7. Storylines that make you reevaluate what it means to be home. Did I talk about just that, with my therapist, this week? Good chance I did.
8. The use of the word “Fuckening.”
9. 100 minutes of “I must now go home and think about my career because holy shit am I even a writer?” (You are. This feeling of self-doubt will pass).
10. Malort jokes. I got sober before I could try it...still laughed my ass off. After this show, I considered relapsing just to try it. Too soon?
Here’s my only criticism, followed by me admitting I’m wrong: The overlapping dialogue hurt my brain at times. I feared missing something important and my anxiety was screaming like Kim K when she lost her diamond earring in the ocean. However, I immediately recognized that that is the point. We don’t speak in soliloquies and we hear what we want to hear. Humans have a hard time listening. We’d rather hear ourselves talk than open ourselves up to the idea that maybe, just maybe, we will not die if we make space for others. The Light Fantastic expands on this idea: that love and kindness are verbs.
Sprint to this show. Luckily, "The Light Fantastic" has been extended until June 30th. You have 2 extra weeks to experience this masterpiece.
*I dedicate this review to the man who told me he doesn’t waste his time with non-equity theaters. Eat my shorts.
Jackalope Theatre Company at Broadway
Armory Park, 5917 North Broadway,
Running through June 30th
Run Time: 100 minutes, no intermission