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Review: Quake (Buzz22 Chicago)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: Quake (Buzz22 Chicago)   

Written by Melanie Marnich  
Directed by Sara Sawicki  
Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map)
thru Feb 18  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
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Meandering play has moments of clarity


Review: Quake (Buzz22 Chicago)


Buzz22 Chicago presents



Review by Keith Ecker 

Buzz22 Chicago‘s production of Quake unfolds as a poetic ode to the inner yearnings of every suburbanite girl. The protagonist, Lucy (Rebecca Loeser), finds herself unstuck from time, cascading through a series of failed relationships and obtuse dreams starring an astrophysicist serial killer on the lam. It makes for a befuddling narrative that tries too hard to feel meaningful, but that is not to say it doesn’t have shining moments of clarity that connect.

The play’s staging is fairly barebones, almost womb-like, adorned with billowy curtains through which characters enter and exit. We initially meet Lucy as she delivers one of those sickly metaphorical monologues that are ubiquitous in amateur theater. Something about how she’s a pebble born from a lake and a lot of self-important usage of the first person. I’m a huge fan of beautiful prose (hey, some of my best friends are poets), but you can’t wedge this stuff into a piece—and at the top of a piece no less—without the majority of the audience questioning whether they just stumbled into some small theater company’s vanity piece. It’s better to wrap that language into the narrative and give it some meaning within the context of the plot.

But once the lofty monolog is done, the fun begins. Although I’m still not quite sure what the hell was going on half the time, I don’t think it really matters. I’m sure there is some larger cohesive meaning to the play, and I’m quite sure it evaded me. But there are scenes here that are little nuggets of gold that if explored and nurtured further could transform this rather uneven work into a stellar little piece of art.

Highlights include a scene in which Lucy and a male companion (Fred Geyer) are biking. The man is intensely into the physical demands of pedaling while Lucy huffs and puffs, regretting that she let love lead her onto the seat of a bicycle. Another intriguing scene takes place in a convenient store (perhaps a convenient store within a dream) where Lucy actually encounters her idol, the murderous astrophysicist (Meg Elliott). She and the cashier (Ellie Reed) share in mutual admiration of the killer, who has become somewhat of an idol to repressed women everywhere. The scene has elements of surrealism mixed with comedic fancy. It’s a nice blend of poetic expression and humor.

Loeser is the star of this show, and she plays her character with a combination of cutesy charm and annoying aloofness. She is at her best when the script is at its best, providing clear scenes with clear relationships and clear motivations. When the script spirals into ornate territory, Loeser becomes as relatable as the words she is saying. I see this not as a failure on the part of Loeser but more so on the parts of the writer, Melanie Marnich, and the director, Sara Sawicki, who could have massaged in more subtext to make these weaker areas of the script translate.

Buzz22 Chicago is a very young theater company, both in the sense of the age of the group and the ages of its members. These are fresh-faced college grads, and so I extend my most sincere commendation to them for putting up a show (and at the Royal George no less). In fact, they are putting up more than just one show. Quake is accompanied by another play, Residue, in repertoire. They are obviously an ambitious group of young people with a passion for the form. Although Quake has its imperfections, I look forward to seeing what they deliver in the future.


Rating: ★★½



Quake continues through February 18th at Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map), with performances Fridays at 8pm and Saturdays at 3pm.  Tickets are $20, and are available by phone (312-988-9000) or online at (check for half-price tickets at More information at 

Photos by Justin Barbin



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