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Review: Other Letters (The Other Theatre Co.)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: Other Letters (The Other Theatre Co.)
Other Letters

Review: Other Letters (The Other Theatre Co.)

Letters are a lost art in this age of social media and instant gratification. They're tangible rather than virtual, take longer to compose and to reach the sender. Like today's texts, posts, tweets and emails, however, letters can be a misinterpreted mess or a grand gesture of love. The Other Theatre Company aims to explore the epistolary tradition through a new lens in its world premiere of Other Letters . Boiled down to two chairs, two tables and two actors, the play is a pleasant way to spend 80 minutes and a fresh spin on letter-based stories.

Review: Other Letters (The Other Theatre Co.)
A.R. Gurney's Love Letters is a popular show on both the professional and amateur theater circuits. Essentially more of a staged reading than a fleshed-out performance, it requires the barest minimum of sets and lighting, no real costume design and a male and female actor. That's it. The power of Love Letters comes through its words: the decades-long communication of a man and woman. Sometimes the missives are loving, other times contentious. An actor's silence speaks volumes - the character didn't write back. Did he/she receive the letter or is there more to the story? Distilled to two voices speaking words on a page, Love Letters speaks to humanity's primal desires to communicate, to be heard and to love.

In Other Letters , playwrights Bryan Renaud and Carin Silkaitis (the latter is Other's Artistic Director) aim to put a queer spin on the classic epistolary love story. The show actually has two scripts - one for two men and one for two women - and a rotating cast of actors. Other Theatre is clearly very passionate about telling this unique yet universal tale, proclaiming in their press release that "queer relationships are just as flawed, just as messy, and just as wonderful as straight relationships...[Other Theatre Company is] interested in showing a beautiful relationship, maintained through letters, that just happens to be queer."

Review: Other Letters (The Other Theatre Co.)
On the whole, they succeed. Other Letters paints a complex same-sex relationship that vacillates among friendship, romantic love and everywhere in between. The protagonists meet in elementary school and a class project soon develops into passing notes, birthday party invitations and plans for rendezvous. They cover burgeoning sexuality, questions of identity and major career and life changes. Of course, nothing lasts forever, be it flings, jobs or partnerships. While the women's relationship is clear and believable, with a series of believable ups and downs that could happen and have happened to anyone regardless of sexuality (as well as the unique challenges faced by the LGBT community), the script could still use a little work (you say "amazing," I say "thesaurus"),

Other Letters is almost challenging to review: I won't be seeing the male version, the show has almost no production value and the actors are different literally every night. On the whole, I perceive Other Letters as less of a play and more of a novel read out loud. Both romantic and realistic, Other Letters is well worth the trek to Rogers Park.

Other Letters continues through February 29th at Side Project Theatre, 1439 W. Jarvis (map), with performances Sundays and Mondays at 8pm. Tickets are $25, and are available by phone (312-620-0134) or online through (check for half-price tickets at ). More information at (Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission)

Review: Other Letters (The Other Theatre Co.)

cast for February dates

2/7 - Emma Smith, Colleen DeRosa
2/8 - Alex Weisman, Will Allan
2/14 - Grant Stokes, Evan Michalic
2/15 - Patricia Lavery, Sarah Charipar
2/21 - Robyn Coffin, Kristin Collins
2/22 - Jake Szczepaniak, Bryan Renaud
2/28 - Madrid St. Angelo, Mark David Kaplan
2/29 - Janet Ulrich Brooks, Carin Silkaitis

behind the scenes

Carin Silkaitis (director, playwright), Bryan Renaud (co-playwright)

Tags: 16-0209, A.R. Gurney, Alex Weisman, Bryan Renaud, Carin Silkaitis, Chicago Theater, Colleen DeRosa, Emma Smith, Evan Michalic, Grant Stokes, Jake Szczepaniak, Janet Ulrich Brooks, Kristin Collins, Madrid St. Angelo, Mark David Kaplan, Patricia Lavery, post, Robyn Coffin, Sarah Charipar, side project theatre, The Other Theatre, The Side Project, Will Allan

Category: 2016 Reviews, Lauren Whalen, New Work, Other Theatre Co., side project theatre, World Premier

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