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Review: Residue (Buzz22 Chicago)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: Residue (Buzz22 Chicago)   

Written by Joel Sinensky  
Directed by Scott Weinstein
Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map)
thru Feb 19  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
   Read entire review



Drug play is transparently over the top


Review: Residue (Buzz22 Chicago)


Buzz22 Chicago presents



Review by Keith Ecker 

One thing I like about Buzz22 Chicago‘s Midwest premier of Residue is its sitcom quality. I almost feel like I’m watching a staged version of “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or a bizarre drug-fueled episode of “Friends”. The characters are all young urbanites living in New York. They are highly self-involved, and they engage each other in snappy repartee. It’s not a surprise to find out that the playwright, Joel Sinensky, is a Chicago transplant living in L.A.

But this same Hollywood aesthetic also serves to hold the play back. Situations are contrived. There are far too many "wacky predicaments" for me to stomach. And the characters are two-dimensional. Their emotions arise seemingly out of nowhere, resulting in a continuous strand of loud, melodramatic outbursts. And although the script has its wit, the jokes sometimes detract from the scene’s poignancy, often serving as wrenches that gum up the play’s machinery.

As mentioned, Residue is about three young professionals sharing an apartment together in New York. Todd (Andrew Goetten) is an employed pothead who serves as the most relatable and down-to-earth character of the bunch. He’s the sanest figure we get in this otherwise tornadic apartment.

His good friend and roommate Jeremy (Phil de Guzman) has the sense of a block of wood. The guy’s full-time job is thinking about writing his book. Broke as hell, he decides he should get into the drug-dealing business. But it’s not marijuana that he’s looking to sell. He’s after bigger money. He wants to sell cocaine.

Review: Residue (Buzz22 Chicago)

The third roommate is Steph (Amanda Kahn), Todd’s sister, who is a complete lightening rod for drama and a never-ending source of shrill. She loves slamming doors, and she loves sexing up her police officer boyfriend.

Police officer boyfriend, a pothead and a cocaine dealer? Can you see the wacky terrain we are crossing? The script at times is almost transparent, lacking the appropriate subtleties and subtext it would require to create a convincing and engaging narrative. Sinensky seems like a talented writer. But perhaps he’s too conditioned for film and television to write for the theater. Or perhaps he just needs to find the right story that can simultaneously convey his comedic voice while creating meaningful theatrical scenes.

Meanwhile, Scott Weinstein‘s direction makes it difficult for the actors to connect with the audience. The cast seems to have been told to play big, to emote loudly, to scream! There is so much yelling in this play. And yet there is so little emotion. Louder and faster does not equal funnier. For a comedian, ratcheting up the volume is a move you make when you feel cornered. Trust in your script. Trust in your actors. Play the levels so that when you need to be loud it actually means something.

Goetten is dependable as audience conduit Todd. Steve Thomas as the streetwise drug dealer garners some of the biggest laughs. Guzman feels stiff as Jeremy. The lines just don’t flow naturally; I can see the actor at work. Kahn relies on either playing mean or angry. I’d like to see more range.

Overall, Residue (which is in repertory along with the very different Quake – my review here) is a loud and somewhat forgettable comedy. Subtler direction may lend the characters more depth, which in turn would provide more weight to the piece. Still, it shows glimmers of creative growth from a young and very ambitious theater company.


Rating: ★★½



Residue continues through February 19th at The Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map), with performances Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 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 

Review: Residue (Buzz22 Chicago)

All photos by Justin Barbin 



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