Buddeke and Stark look to Lucy Sandy for guidance on sweater fashion
One thing you notice when you arrive at virtually any Chicago Theater is that all companies try to stick to their own genres.
Genres are things that can really help you to find an audience. For example, there are companies that only do Irish plays, Horror plays, plays about food, plays about America, plays about families, plays about Middle Eastern people, plays by one playwright, plays for black people, plays for white people (most theatre companies do plays exclusively for white people), and plays about birds.
So, if I am just a regular guy who loves birds and I don't see a lot of theatre, I might go see this play at Bird Ensemble.
The point is, it takes a lot of nuts and balls and guts and heart to do a play without the safety net of a single genre, because you don't know where your audience is going to come from.
Well, that is exactly what Theater Wit has done with "The North Plan". They have taken their love of every genre ever made and put them all into a single 90 minute play that is sure to delight and inspire you to murder a police officer.
*Note: In my description of this play, I will include the correct genre by the appropriate plot point.
Tanya, a crazy redneck on her way to work, has been arrested for turning herself in for drunken driving (Hillbilly Comedy). She has a long talk with the black lady assistant about her struggle (Civil Rights Drama), and the Sheriff (Small Town Melodrama). Next into the holding cell is Carlton. He doesn't like Tanya because she is loud and obnoxious (Prison Friendship/ Unlikely Partner) but he needs her help because he is talking about how the government has taken over and put the country under martial law. He has a list of some thing or another (Conspiracy Theory), but the Sheriff informs him that unknown officers are coming to collect him and it is important that his name doesn't enter the police system (Existentialism). So he tells Tanya that he needs her help. She makes a sexual advance on him (Romantic Comedy) and he informs her that he is a Gay Jew (Woody Allen). 2 Detectives arrive (Buddy Cop) and rough Carlton up (Torture Porn) telling him that they need the list (Interrogation). Tanya gets out and returns (Mistaken Identity) and there is some hiding (Farce) and then some shooting in the Police Station (Western) which leads to a dramatic conclusion (Yosemite Sam Cartoon).
The performers understand the hefty task they have recognizing and performing in all of these genres and do so with elegant grace and style.
3 performances stand out in my mind as perfect examples of how to just go with it!
Kate Buddeke, as usual, gives her all as a hopeless and unlikeable hick with a heart of oil. See, here's the secret: When the play starts, you think she is a jerk, and when it ends...you still think she is a jerk. She is just a jerk for different reasons. Buddeke herself seems very likable in real life, so get off her back, everybody.
In Chicago, we hold our great male actors up on pedestals, and there is one man that stands at the top of the pedestal with aplomb and a disdain for media types. You will never see him give an interview because he is pure art, You cannot interview art. All you can do is watch and wonder what that art means, and then you can discuss the art over coffee when you leave the museum. In this case, that art's name is Kevin Stark. Stark shines brightly in the winter of our theatrical landscape. A star with a mustache and sex appeal that every generation cannot deny. Your daughters and sons from Bronzeville to West Rogers Park are revering him with posters and chat rooms devoted to his whereabouts and favorite things. Stark portrays the cagey Carlton and works off of Buddeke magnificently. He treats her with both mercy and respect, intertwined with bouts of confusion and anger.
The last and certainly greatest actor to emerge in Chicago in the last 5 years is Tom Hickey. Hickey has a small but important role and, as always, steals the show and puts it into his duffel bag that he always carries with him. If you ever have an opportunity to meet Tom Hickey, he will undoubtedly be holding his trusty duffel bag and when you ask him what is inside, he won't answer you. He will probably change the subject to the weather or a recent film, but you will know that inside that duffel bag, is the show he has just stolen from everyone and he is going to take it home and impregnate that show.
Applause to Kimberly Senior and Theater Wit for directing and producing this show that, in any other hands, would have been confined to a singular genre, and the magic would be gone.