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Love and Money at Steep Theatre | Theater review

Dennis Kelly’s bracing 2006 piece about affluence and empathy feels even more timely now.

Photograph: Lee Miller
Love and Money at Steep Theatre

An affluence-obsessed collage, Dennis Kelly’s bracing 2006 work feels only more current and vital six years later. In its most abstract movement, most of the seven-actor ensemble takes up a second-person narrative as financial-service execs who describe the thrill of finding an idea—coming up with an invented, enriching bit of math not unlike the credit default swaps that sent our economy into a tailspin a few years later. But then, to their chagrin, they start to think of “the defaulters” as people, rather than numbers. “You might begin to think that what one person does to another is a thing,” more tangible than a transaction, they say, and that’s deadly to the theoretical industry that fuels them.

Vividly staged by Robin Witt, this sequence both broadens and sharpens the impact of the British playwright’s nonlinear gut-punch, which has introduced us to a husband up to his eyeballs in debt (the always truthful Peter Moore) and now, earlier in the time line, brings in his troubled wife (a heartbreaking Julia Siple).

Kelly’s play doesn’t always stay so taut; a long late scene between an impressionable bar patron and an opportunistic leech deflates the momentum despite exceptionally honest work by actors Darci Nalepa and Gregory Rothman. But as a multifaceted snapshot of our collective fealty to impersonal numbers over human empathy, Love and Money is as immediate as it gets.

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