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Review: Hesperia (Writers’ Theatre)

Posted on the 06 February 2012 by Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

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Written by Randall Colburn
Directed by Stuart Carden 
Writers’ Theatre, 325 Tudor Ct., Glencoe (map)
thru March 18  |  tickets: $35-$70   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
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When unholy suspense goes nowhere


Review: Hesperia (Writers’ Theatre)


Writers’ Theatre presents



Review by Lauren Whalen 

Adult film meets conservative Christianity. West Coast meets Midwest. An addict on the run dates an optimistic virgin, and a virginal youth minister courts an ex-porn star. Hesperia sets up all of these conflicts and many more in its fast-paced 90-minute running time. Yet while playwright Randall Colburn is excellent at casting doubt, suspicion and a sense of doom as prevalent as cornfields in Illinois, he falls down at following through.

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Hesperia begins with a simmering confrontation between ex-lovers Ian (Nathan Hosner) and Claudia (Kelly O’Sullivan). Escaping their small town roots for the glittering promise of Los Angeles, the two made a name for themselves in the adult film industry – until personal tragedy and drug abuse drove Claudia (not her real name) back to the Midwest, where she’s found salvation in the church and love with earnest youth pastor Trick (Erik Hellman). In search of his lost love and avoiding threatening folk in L.A., Ian shows up weeks before Claudia and Trick’s wedding, throwing into chaos the new existence Claudia has worked so hard to build and maintain.

Though at times the dialog leaves much to be desired, Colburn deftly presents a fair-minded view of the church Claudia has joined. Though words like “saved” and “the Lord” are liberally sprinkled in Trick’s sentences, the youth pastor (Claudia’s fiancé) is genuinely nonjudgmental of Claudia’s former and Ian’s current lifestyle and kind to the rough interloper who used to do all sorts of things to his future wife in front of a camera. As well, Ian is aware of his copious personal issues and gamely attends services and assists Trick with coaching teenage Aaron (Tyler Ross) for the upcoming Bible Bee. Though Claudia is the character who has set the events of the play in motion, Trick and Ian are the most fascinating parts of Hesperia, often surprising the audience thanks to Colburn’s careful development.

If only so many of the plot points weren’t so implausible. Trick’s friendly interest in Ian is believable enough, but why would he set up Ian – an ex-porn star and recovering addict, as Trick is well aware – with his squeaky-clean cousin Daisy (Rebecca Buller), who has barely even kissed a man? When Aaron stumbles upon one of Ian and Claudia’s films and it ends up in Trick’s hands, why is this pivotal event – the culmination of Claudia’s fear that her past will “become real” to Trick – never mentioned again? Why is sweet Aaron not so much a character as a plot device – first to show Trick’s skill as a youth pastor, then to befriend Ian and discover the dreaded DVD? Why is Claudia, whose decisions are those of a strong-willed and thoughtful woman, often reduced to whining out her monologues and nagging the two men in her life?

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Review: Hesperia (Writers’ Theatre)
Review: Hesperia (Writers’ Theatre)

Hesperia’s saving grace is director Stuart Carden’s nimble cast, who make the very most of a problematic script. Though he doesn’t have much to do, Ross brings a painful believability to awkward but devout young Aaron. Trick’s innocent chatterbox cousin Daisy could have been extremely annoying, but Buller’s fresh and wholesome interpretation is completely endearing. O’Sullivan is captivating as the angry and vulnerable Claudia, and Hellman is picture-perfect as the corn-fed and loyal man of God, Trick. But Hosner is in a class by himself: equal parts vengeful, troubled and searching. His Ian commands the stage, bearing a heavy cross and fascinating at every turn.

With a few more confrontational scenes, Hesperia could have fulfilled its considerable potential in a very satisfying way. The actors are more than up to the challenge, and the director has the skills to guide the way. However, the script never fully realizes what it can do. Like the sexuality of its religious characters, Hesperia feels repressed.


Rating: ★★½



Hesperia continues through March 18th at Writers’ Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe (map), with performances Tuesdays at 7:30pm, Wednesdays at 2pm, Thursdays-Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 6pm..  Tickets are $35-$70, and are available by phone (847-242-6000) or online at (check for half-price tickets at More information at  (Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission)

Review: Hesperia (Writers’ Theatre)


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