Phillip Dawkins has created quite an interesting piece of theatre with his latest piece, Failure: A Love Story. Set in the 1920’s, this Chicago-centric piece tells the story of three doomed sisters who all fall in love with the same man. Gertrude, Jenny June and Nelly are the daughters of immigrant clock-makers who gleam the name after landing on Ellis Island.
Dawkins’ set is up is theatrical gold. We are told at the outset that all three sisters will die within one year of each other, as well as the cause of their deaths. Thus, we are instantly invested with the characters and in the hands of the amazing cast assembled by director Seth Bockley, the emotional truth of the story is quite striking. The constant of the play is the fascinating Matt Fletcher who is the Fail’s man of the hour, Mortimer (Mortimer). From the moment he falls in love the youngest of the sisters, Nelly, each of their fates is set in motion.
Failure: A Love Story is half “meta” theater and half period piece, which creates the genius and the problem with production. When the two halfs work symbiotically together the story flourishes. When the two are at odds with each other, the story shifts to something a bit bizarre and macabre, but is an issue that can surely be solved some small revisions to the book.
For its world premiere, the casting could not be more sublime. Baize Buzan’s Nelly is blazen with naive brilliance and is a revelation to the Chicago theatre scene. Emjoy Gavino is a winning Jenny June whose demise comes from an attempt to swim across Lake Michigan while Mildred Marie Langford is sensational as the lovelorn eldest Fail, Gertrude, who finds a final solace in the man that won the hearts of two her dead sisters. As John, the pseudo adopted brother of the Fails, Michael Salinas both physically and verbally nails his character’s eccentricities and solitude, while Janet Ulrich Brooks (one of my favorite actresses working in the theatre) and Guy Massey play the elder Fails (as well as intervening/interceding “characters”) with great panache.
In the end, Failure: A Love Story is just that, a love story; of people and pets who win over our hearts, and by honoring and acknowledging that love, their lives, however short, will never be considered something doomed to fail. The other moral of the story; if you want to live, don’t date Moritmer.
Failure: A Love Story runs through December 30, 2012 at the Richard Christiansen Theatre at Victory Gardens Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL< call 773-871-3000, www.victorygardens.org Tickets range from $35 – $50; Performances are Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 7;30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm Running time is 95 minutes without intermission. For calendar information please visit www.theatreinchicago.com