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Review: Thirty Thousand One (Pursuit Productions)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: Thirty Thousand One (Pursuit Productions)   
Thirty Thousand One 

Written and Directed by Kacie Smith 
Choreographed by Ahmad Simmons
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru Aug 12  |  tickets: $15-$20   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
   Read entire review



Debut piece brings dance, theater together with impressive results


Review: Thirty Thousand One (Pursuit Productions)


Pursuit Productions presents


Thirty Thousand One

Review by J.H. Palmer

The stage of Thirty Thousand One looks like a giant, smudged potter’s wheel with circular strokes of earth tones. In the center, a dancer sits in wait, shrouded in cloth, and – unless one watches closely enough to see the dancer breathing – echoes a lump of clay waiting to be molded. The back of the stage holds most of the set: a series of wooden shelves filled with various pieces of pottery.

Review: Thirty Thousand One (Pursuit Productions)
The action begins as the Narrator (Lorraine Freund, who also plays the role of Mother) steps onto the stage and begins telling the myth of Thirty Thousand One.  As she does so, The Creator (Jessica Miller Tomlinson) removes the cloth from the figure at center stage, who turns out to be The Earth (Joshua Manculich). The decision to make the creator female and the earth male is an interesting twist on the usual creation myth. The Narrator continues to describe the myth, which involves a “missing piece” that longs to find its partner, (which made me think of the Shel Silverstein poem of the same name), and as she does so, dancers emerge from behind rows of pottery, rising up from their hidden beds to join The Creator and The Earth in an opening dance sequence.

This piece is equal parts dancing and acting; the dancing is gorgeous, often taking place with ethereal underwater music playing, and is executed beautifully. Freund does a tremendous job of switching between the roles of Narrator and Mother; one can tell instantly when she has switched roles by the tone of her voice, her comportment, and the dialogue. She plays the mother of Ilsa (Julie Matolo), a depressed young woman who spends much of her time in bed, while on the opposite side of the stage a dissatisfied young man named Simon (Luke Couzens) is coaxed into leaving his apartment by his friend, Barnes (Andrew Goetten). Ilsa and Simon are each other’s missing piece, and in one beautifully rendered scene they sleep fitfully in their separate beds, which are moved around the stage by dancers as they toss and turn.

Review: Thirty Thousand One (Pursuit Productions)

In keeping with the myth, Ilsa and Simon must undergo a series of obstacles. Although one might anticipate the ending, the journey in Thirty Thousand One is full of unexpected turns, and the acting is just as tight as the choreography. Kacie Smith’s dialogue is engaging and well paced, and never seems secondary to the dancing, which is itself an impressive thing to behold.

I’d never have guessed that this is a work in progress, and if Smith and choreographer Ahmad Simmons hadn’t informed the audience this before the show started, nobody would have been the wiser.  While there are a few moments that could be tightened up, overall this piece holds together quite well. I have a feeling that by the end of this short run (the last performance is this Sunday at 3pm), the cast and crew will have the input and experiential knowhow to take this to the next level. I’ve seen plenty of “finished” pieces that weren’t nearly as good, and the dancing alone is worth the price of admission.


Rating: ★★★



Thirty Thousand One continues through August 12th at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, Sunday 3pm.  Tickets are $15-$20, and are available by phone (773-975-8150) or online at (check for half-price tickets at More info at  (Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission)

Emma Nicole Peterson, Hayden Clifton and Cassandra Porter, in Pursuit Productions'

Photos by Chris Dzombak




Lorraine Freund (Narrator, Mother); Jessica Miller Tomlinson (The Creator); Joshua Manculich (The Earth); Angela Dice (The Female); Julie Matolo (Ilsa); Nico Ager (Dudley, Pluto); Luke Couzens (Simon); Andrew Goetten (Barnes); Cassandra Porter, Hayden Clifton, Brian Humpherys, Erin Kouwe, Teagan Rose, Pavel Tabutov, Marissa Horton, Michael McDonald, Emma Peterson, Danielle Scanlon (ensemble)

behind the scenes

Kacie Smith (creator, director); Ahmad Simmons (choreography); Rachel Stubblefield-Tave (stage manager); Sam Mueller (asst. stage manager); Colin Fulton (composer, sound design); Henry Behel (set design); Yonit Olshan (costumes); Sarah Petty (lighting); Melissa Schlesigner (tech director); Angela Dice (asst. choreography); Alyssa Loiacano (asst. lighting); Katie Caruso (development assistant); Nico Rodriguez (asst. marketing); John Nguyen (web design); Corey Lubowich (graphic design); Katarina Podlesnaya, Naomo Rosen (producers); Chris Dzombak (photos)

Review: Thirty Thousand One (Pursuit Productions)
Review: Thirty Thousand One (Pursuit Productions)

Review: Thirty Thousand One (Pursuit Productions)
Review: Thirty Thousand One (Pursuit Productions)


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