Theater Review: In A Garden
In A Garden
Playwright: Howard Korder Director: Lou Contey
Scenic Design: Joel Schermoly Costume Design: Myron Elliott
Lighting Design: Matt Gawryk Sound Design: Josh Horvath
Featuring: Rom Barkhordar, Larry Grimm, Shannon Parr and Emilio Robles
A Red Orchid’s In A Garden is a simply candid and intimate approach to political drama.
A Red Orchid’s newest production opens on an intimately scaled office within the capital palace of the fictitious Aquaat. Though simple in form and function, Joe Schermoly’s designed set presents a tone of less is more as the Howard Korder penned In A Garden does indeed grow both within the confined space of A Red Orchid but also on its audience – proving that though something may be buried, there will be treasures in store.
Structured as a traditionally-sequential storyline, In a Garden lays out the fictitious meetings and planning of a gazebo structure for the country head of Aquuat, a Middle Eastern entity involved amidst the Saudi Arabian war struggles taking place between 1989 and 2004. At opening, the ambitious American architect Hacket begins meeting with Othman, the Minister of Culture to build a thing of beauty; something to remind the Minister of his happiest childhood memories. Architectural plans get sidelined, years float by and both men begin to know each other more than just business associates. One begins to wonder who is actually in charge and if beauty is even possible, and if so – what is its use?
Known all over Chicago as a formidable talent, Lou Contey’s latest undertaking is no less than a win. In the midst of some thoughtful conversation on Politics, relationships and even Pop Culture, Korder has given audiences side-stories that are never quite completed and characters that aren’t fully-rounded but in the capable hands of Contey, both principle actors in Grimm and Barkhordar play their roles steeped in realism. Directionally, In A Garden is confident, economical and paces itself well by ensuring that it never feels rushed or drawn out but fully organic – true talent lies in Contey’s direction as he has been given a script that is slightly sagging in places and doesn’t seem fully realized but gets away looking like this is all off the cuff.
Rom Barkhordar plays the wonderfully charming and chain-smoking Othman by showing a deftness in the art of deception to both humble his hired artist, while also exuding ego to be the master behind the builder, perhaps revealing his inner-John Keating, ala Dead Poets Society. Barkhordar’s animated and quickly-dry wit makes for skillful delivery of Korder’s words and a sizzling stage presence – proving that In A Garden is a game of chess that he will never lose. While Orchid member Larry Grimm pulls out a fine inner-turmoiled and torn Hacket with naturalistic style. Giving a contained utopian artist, Grimm has built a man torn apart by his own circumstances and hand, making for a crushing end to this particular story but as an Actor, Grimm also displays a wonderful concentration and determination that leads Garden’s audience from initial dismissal through complete character supporters by the show’s final curtain.
Built as a a more sophisticated ensemble piece, rather than merely just a character study, A Red Orchid’s production of In A Garden is inspiring and candid. Lou Contey has given audiences an intimate and frank approach to political drama while involving rich performances from Rom Barkhordar & Larry Grimm. Overall audiences will treated to a splendidly crafted and thoughtful show that will leave for a fulfilling evening of theatre.
Running time is approximately 2 hours with one 10-minute intermission.
Photo credits: Michael Brosilow
~ Matt Miles, 24/7 Contributor
Producer of Fresh Roasted Films
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