20th anniversary production is a hell of a ride
Profiles Theatre presents
Review by Katy Walsh
Profiles Theatre presents Hellcab in its 20th Anniversary production. It’s Christmas Eve in Chicago. A taxi driver starts his holiday shift picking up church goers at 6:30am and ends it with a late night run to Melrose Diner. In between, it’s a mad parade of drunks and punks in and out of the backseat. The cabdriver is looking for human decency. What he finds, surprises him with every fare. Hellcab is a vehicle that could be driven by Charlie Brown, George Bailey, Grinch, or even Scrooge.
The long-running late night show based on Playwright Will Kern’s cab driving experiences is back for a limited engagement. Kern wrote snippets of Chicago life from the rearview mirror. His dealings with fanatics, junkies, philanderers, and criminals are the premise for the show. The 20+ mini and distinct stories have just a few minutes to grab our attention. And they certainly do! Some are laughable. Some are cringe-able. All are believable! Director Darrell W. Cox piles a cast of 34 actors into this taxi. The mega scenes whirl past at a steady pace. Cox drives the action with slick transitions and memorable characters.
Behind the wheel is a vulnerable Konstantin Khrustov. His performance is a wild ride of emotions. Khrustov emotes raw and spontaneous feelings for each situation. He may be the only Chicago cabdriver I’ve ever felt a true empathetic connection. His passengers are the typical squirrely, trashed or loathing Chicago commuters. (Try not to see your worst cab behavior amplified.) Since this an ensemble of nameless characters, identifying standouts is near impossible. Based on the program headshots, I want to give a shout out to hilarious performances by sloppy, inebriated Katrina V. Miller and skanky, cougar Stephanie Monday.
Set Designer Shaun Renfro takes us outside inside. The Main Stage is graffiti-covered concrete. In the middle of the set is an actual taxicab minus its roof and windows. It’s cool! This genuine look combined with the real life scenarios gives this show true validity. My only speed bump in the entire play is the outdated fares: $4 for a trip. Sure, it might be a flashback to the 1992 origins but it pissed me off. $2.20?! Come on!
Despite that, this show is still relevant. Hellcab isn’t a schmaltzy holiday show. It is gritty, authentic and still tender-hearted, like seeing a gang-banger wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. True Christmas spirit is most surprising and endearing when it comes from unique sources.
Hellcab continues through December 23rd at Profiles Theatre, The Main Stage, 4139 N. Broadway (map), with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 5pm and 8pm, Sundays at 7pm. Tickets are $35-$40, and are available by phone (773-549-1815) or online through PrintTixUSA.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at ProfilesTheatre.org. (Running time: Seventy minutes, no intermission)
Photos by Michael Brosilow
Konstantin Khrustov (cab driver), Anthony John Lawrence Apodaca, Dennis Bisto, Rebecca Julia Brown, Maryann Carlson, Chris Carr, Eric J. Ciak, Alex Fisher, LJ Flora, Jeff Gamlin, Carly Jo Geer, Philena Gilmer, Charles Glenn, Rob Grabowski, Desmond Gray, Aaron Holland, Khalil Lesaldo, Kaitlyn Majoy, Jack McCabe, Christopher McMorris, Katrina V. Miller, Stephanie Monday, Joseph W. Moore III, Todd Neal, Brennan Roche, Sarai Rodriguez, Andrew L. Saenz, Sheridan Singleton, Adam Soule, Aaron Spencer, Elise Spoerlein, Scott Stockwell, Rachel Weeks, Jin You (ensemble)
behind the scenes
Darrell W. Cox (director); Shaun Renfro (set), Mike Durst (lights), Jeffrey Levin (sound design, original music); Raquel Adorno (costumes); Jordan Muller (stage manager); Eric Burgher, Harmony France (asst. directors); Rick Julien (tech director); Jim Moore production tech director); Kaylie Honkala (asst. stage manager); Michael Brosilow (photos)