This ‘Hellcab’ not worth the ride

(left to right) Adam Mengesha, Jack Schultz, Audrey Gladson and Regina Linn (Photo by Katie Reynolds)
(left to right) Adam Mengesha, Jack Schultz, Audrey Gladson and Regina Linn
(Photo by Katie Reynolds)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

This popular play by Will Kern has been trotted out by several companies since its debut in the nineteen- nineties and was even made into a movie in 1998.

“Hellcab” is comprised of a number of vignettes all taking place within the confines of a cab trolling the streets of Chicago during an evening leading up to the Christmas holiday.

There are highs and lows, there is happiness and sadness, violence and love. Some people are in good cheer, others not so much.  Through each experience the stoic cabbie (in this case played by Regina Linn) absorbs the emotional impact of each encounter.

The work is ideal for an acting class because it offers a range of characterizations and emotions with parts suitable for every “type” thereby offering opportunities for those who want stay within their comfort zone and those who want to explore their potential.

Presented by the Agency Theater Collective, the company began as an acting classroom that claims to have evolved. Sadly, that is not evident in this production.

My impression from the opening scene was that this looks like an acting class. That in itself is not a bad thing. To me it depends on how you position your offering to the public

In this case the company has a “pay as you please policy” which makes the  performance level a bit more palatable. If it were offering this as entertainment at the going rate I would have been even more disappointed.

The biggest issue with both me and my companion was the lack of investment each of the actors made in their characters. They did little more than get their lines out with some random emotion which was sometimes appropriate and sometimes not. The emotion did not come from inside or have a sense of understanding.

Though well written, the dialogue did not ring true and “Cabbie” Linn seemed like just one more person in the theater who really wanted this night to be over. It did not help that the theater was cold enough to hang meat.

Much of the responsibility lies with the director (Cordie Nelson) whose job it is to guide the performances and this cab needed a GPS.

The set by Elyse Balogh which included the body of an actual checker cab from the period and a Chicago style street light looked promising, though the other colonial style lamp off to the side looked a bit sad and out of place. Ellie Humphry’s lighting had potential but was overall uninspired. The costumes by Hailey Rakowiecki were good.

In an effort to end this on a high note I will say that Delysa Richards’ “Pregnant Wife” and “Drunk” characters offered some needed energy.

Both Adam Mengesha’s “Young Guy” and “Scary” were moving in the right direction and Tricia Rogers’ “Looker” with her repeated lines of “Are you gonna call me mamma? Are you gonna call me sugar mamma,” was an effective vignette interjecting a much needed laugh.

If you are looking for a cheap date or little fun with some friends, Will Kern’s material is good and is not severely harmed here. Just wear a warm coat and buckle up for a bumpy ride.

DETAILS: “Hellcab” by The Chicago Theater Collective is at The Raven Theatre (West Stage) 6157 N. Clark St., Chicago through Dec. 30, 2018. Running time is about 90 minutes with no intermission. Pay on site, but for more information call (773 )680-4596 or visit we are the agency.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

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