Theatre Seven’s AMERICAN STORM Gallops Out of The Gate
As Cater W. Lewis’ new play American Storm starts out of the gate in the opening scene, you are instantly transported into the 1960’s world of thoroughbred horse racing, also called the “sport of kings”. It is a world unto itself, and one I know intimately as my father has been racing horses since the 1950’s and still does to this day. Hence, my pension for liking this play was heightened. Presented by Theatre Seven of Chicago, American Storm tells the story of a horse who despite coming from a losing pedigree is tapped by his trainer (Lucy Carapetyan) who discovers he is hot to trot on the track. As the story unfolds love triangles emerge, race relations are tested and class warfare ensues shining a spotlight on a very unknown sporting industry, which for almost a decade, was highly manipulated.
Solidly acted with interesting plot twists, all seems to be going well until out of seemingly nowhere, American Storm tries to morph into a political drama with the Cuban missile crisis becoming more a focal point then the characters in the first act we actually became invested in. It was like watching two different plays trying to co-exist with each other and neither doing it very well, which is unfortunate.
There are some very authentic performances throughout including Ms. Carapetyan who perfectly embodies the trainer who has a pension for the married as well as the equine. Anthony Dinicola is also spot on as the Cuban jockey who married into a family where patriarchal and industry prejudice puts his life and others in danger.
Many of the issues also come from director Brian Golden’s lack of clarity for the overall piece, but much of that can be blamed on the compartmentalized script. Same is true of the design of the play which seems to also suffer from a lack of creativity. If there was ever a play that screams to use projections and filmed sequences, this is the one, and with the beautiful and functional set by Joe Schermoly that has two massive barn doors swing out to vast openness, it almost seems a natural. Instead, we are left with My Fair Lady “Ascot Gavotte” racing sequences that where by the end, like Eliza Doolittle, you just want to say….’’move your bloomin’ ass”.
It is my hope that his play will be reworked and edited by its creator to allow for the human story to shine through. Doing that will make American Storm a formidable play and definitely a contender in the Jeff “winner circle”. For now, this is still a play worth seeing as the authenticity of the human drama still shines through.
American Storm plays through December 16, 2012 at Greenhouse Theatre Center Upstairs Studio, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. For more information please visit www.theatreseven.org
For calendar information, please visit www.theatreinchicago.com