Theater, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
Photograph: Michael BrosilowSteve Haggard and Steven Wilson in Sender at A Red Orchid Theatre
 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
Photograph: Michael BrosilowSteve Haggard and McKenzie Chinn in Sender at A Red Orchid Theatre
 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
Photograph: Michael BrosilowSteve Haggard and Mary Williamson in Sender at A Red Orchid Theatre
 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
Photograph: Michael BrosilowMary Williamson in Sender at A Red Orchid Theatre

A man believed dead shows up alive in Ike Holter's new play about taking or forsaking responsibility.

A year to the day after he disappeared and was presumed dead, Lynx (Steve Haggard) shows up at the Chicago apartment of his former girlfriend Tess (Mary Williamson), who’s as furious as she is relieved to see him. She’s just snuck out of a memorial gathering of his grieving friends and family, only to discover the man they’re all grieving abandoned them of his own volition. Where did he go? “Wisconsin,” he answers cagily. More importantly, why did he leave? “You’re never going to know,” he tells her, so better just not to ask.

That’s just the opening scene of Ike Holter’s new play, which features four sharp and savvy performances in Shade Murray’s production at A Red Orchid Theatre. The other two come from Steven Wilson and McKenzie Chinn, as Lynx’s and Tess’s respective best friends, Jordan and Cassandra. Jordan, like Lynx, is a bit of an overgrown manchild, while Cassandra is a no-nonsense fixer; much to Lynx’s surprise, they’ve had a whirlwind romance and marriage in the year since his “death.” But a heavily drunken reunion between Lynx, Jordan and Tess threatens to be bad news for everyone.

Lynx’s off-the-grid escape embodies a self-absorbed rejection of responsibility taken to its logical extreme. When a wasted Jordan remembers he has to go to work in the morning, Lynx responds, “What if you didn’t?” For a certain class of privileged young adults who find “adulting” a chore, running away from all those expectations—not to mention that student loan debt—might seem in theory like a dream come true. Haggard nails Lynx’s asshole charm; you see how selfish he is, but you can also see being tempted to join him.

Meanwhile, Holter’s way with words only gets stronger—his dialogue is as dense and snappy here as any of the fiery speechifying in his Hit the Wall or Exit Strategy, but with a more grounded, natural feel. Your initial viewing might just leave you wanting to return to Sender.

A Red Orchid Theatre. By Ike Holter. Directed by Shade Murray. With Steve Haggard, Mary Williamson, Steven Wilson, McKenzie Chinn. Running time: 1hr 40mins; no intermission.

By: Kris Vire


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