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Theater Review: Overnight Lows, Low Down

By Justin Sondak in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 27, 2007 4:39PM

The Hideout is one of Chicago's more curious rock venues, presenting live music in a space that’s one part Elks Lodge, one part Uncle Dan’s rec room. But the strangely homey, lived-in space lends depth to Walkabout Theater’s “site-specific” production of Mark Guarino’s “Overnight Lows,” an insomniac tale set in a seemingly familiar but subtly off-kilter world.

Extracting drama from everyday locales is Walkabout’s bread-and-butter; the company previously examined mundane daily rituals in a laundromat (“Psycho-So-Matic”) and executive washroom scheming in bathrooms around the city (“Downsize”). “Overnight Lows” transforms the club into three different sets: a garden apartment, a bar and something resembling purgatory. The throwback aesthetic paired with subtle design touches serves the production's narcoleptic tone. In a room seemingly inspired by Twin Peaks, the work of “Visual Environment Designer” Angela Tillges reminds us of a David Lynch dream world. If only they’d found a script worthy of this attention.

overnight_2007_07.jpgThe alarm clock is stuck on 3:55 and Chuck (Seth Bockley) and Sarah (Alexandra Blatt) are navigating a dream where the laws of nature and daily obligations are skewed. For close to an hour, Chuck and Sarah unpack their post-coital baggage. He tells us how he got fired, she explores, with the help of a not-so-mysterious couple, why she withholds trust. She can't trust him, but she can't stop calling a Dr. Laura-esque radio host (a blunt and amusing Justine Serino) whose tough love philosophy barely elevates human urges above those of monkeys. As they piece together their fragmented, overlapping memories, Chuck and Sarah gain clarity, if not relief.

The setting is unique. Guarino’s disoriented, cyclical structure intrigues, pulling us between various states of consciousness with moments of wit (Chuck: “I called work and asked for me.”) But the story and its monotone characters rarely rise to the level of the technique. If we were sharing a drink with these folks, we’d lose interest in their stories after 10 minutes. If this play were one of The Hideout’s live offerings, it’d be a five-piece with a catchy hook and a compelling single or two, but not much staying power.

Overnight Lows, presented by Walkabout Theater, is at The Hideout, 1354 West Wabansia, Mondays and Tuesdays at 7 p.m. through August 14. Tickets are $10 and reservations are recommended. More information at

Photo by Stephan Mazurek