A new Theater Undreground production always seems like a good time for another post to my homepage. (If you like more frequent info & updates, become a fan of my blog – stephendsullivan.blogspot.com.) TU is a Richmond, IL, company dedicated to producing the work of local playwrights (using local actors). I’ve enjoyed every one of their productions I’ve seen previously, and it’s safe to say that I enjoyed this one the most of all.
It’s hard to say much more about Not What You Expected, though, without building… expectations, and thereby ruining some of the show’s… unexpected twists and turns. If you check out TU’s trailer for the show, you’ll see that they don’t reveal much about it, either. All I feel I can safely say about this production is that it follows the exploits of a local rock band as they struggle against the music industry and fortunes that threaten to tear them apart.
What ensues is a carefully orchestrated blend of scripted work, music, improv, and chaos. There’s plenty of amusing theater business, too. But, again, I can’t say more without giving it away. First-time playwrights Katelin Stack & Chris Warren (who have worked with TU before) have done a very good job melding drama, comedy, and unexpected elements. They are helped by veteran TU directors David Baker & Tim Mosbach, who – in the company’s first year – have learned to stage engaging and innovative productions in a small theater on a shoestring budget. They like to do unexpected things, and this show is no exception. The large ensemble cast turns in uniformly amusing performances, and Ian Hall again provides delightful musical point and counterpoint.
So, catch the show Halloween night for its last production (this season, at least). But call ahead, as the shows are selling out, and one local paper declared it, “wildly popular.” My 15-year-old son agreed, saying, “Best play I’ve ever seen.” (For what it’s worth, we’ve seen 6 plays this year alone.) As for me, I’d say this is Theater Undreground’s best production yet — and I hope TU keeps them coming for a long time to come.
And, hey, guys: think about a revival of Not What You Expected next year. Maybe even take it on the road. There are a couple of venues in Burlington, Wisconsin, (for one) that might be available.