Buzz22 Chicago at Greenhouse Theater Center. By Laura Jacqmin. Directed by Sara Sawicki. With ensemble cast. 1hr 30mins; no intermission.
Theater review by Kris Vire
Buzz22 Chicago, the still very young company behind the breakout success of last year’s Steppenwolf Garage Rep, returns with a follow-up that explores similar themes. Like its Chicago premiere of Qui Nguyen’s She Kills Monsters, Buzz22’s professional premiere of Laura Jacqmin’s Ghost Bike is a fantastical quest tale of a young woman grieving the loss of a loved one.
Unlike Nguyen’s role-playing game conceit, Chicago playwright Jacqmin’s new work is a contemporary riff on the afterlife and the possibility of coming back from death, as viewed by a number of mythological traditions.
Best friends Ora (Aurora Adachi-Winter) and Eddie (Ricky Staffieri)—names meant to evoke a gender-reversed Orestes and Eurydice—are Chicago high-school seniors who love nothing more than exploring the city on their fixie bikes (no brakes please, we’re purists). When Eddie is killed by a hit-and-run driver, Ora struggles to accept the fact of his death. When a mysterious stranger points out stories of heroes who visited the afterlife and returned—Theseus, Psyche, Buffy—Ora ventures into a multicultural underworld of cyclists determined to bring Eddie back.
Jacqmin’s work was originally commissioned and produced by the theater department at Wisconsin’s Carthage College, where she’s taught, and there’s definitely something about the collating of bits of Greco-Roman, Norse, Hindu and Buddhist afterlife tales through the lens of urban hipster cyclists that reminds me of freshman-year honors humanities. But Ora’s quest is well constructed, and director Sara Sawicki’s snappy, inventively physical staging and her game actors’ embrace of the approach are reminiscent, in the best way, of the early years of the House Theatre. It’s a sincerely solid ride.