Adventure Stage Chicago. By Tom Arvetis. Directed by Rives Collins. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 30mins; no intermission.
Theater review by Suzanne Scanlon
Adventure Stage’s latest kid-oriented production raises some vital questions: What will we give up to be safe? What does it mean to relinquish privacy? What if the good guys turn out to be bad guys? As Chapter One in The Prometheus Project, this new play by Tom Arvetis places the ancient stories of Prometheus and Pandora into a modern (dystopic) setting.
As a young member of Sanctuary, a separatist community, our curious girl-hero Pan (short for Pandora) trains with her pals for the ultimate exam. No one seems to know what they are in training for, but they do know that the more you kill, the higher your status. Plus, the game—an interactive video battle simulation—is so much fun you might forget to ask questions.
Spark feels most concerned with the danger of living in a state of fear, as well as the universal, heroic quest for truth and triumph of hope. Everyone is hyper-connected, and the mood onstage is reminiscent of Truffaut’s rendering of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: video projections onstage, weirdly bulky techie gear, leader Amin speaking of the daily “threat level.” The threat usually comes from the Outliers, who, as it turns out, are just normal folks—artists, inventors and thinkers who dare to use outlawed materials: pen, paper, books. Pan opens a discovered box, and finds what she needs to escape.
There’s a lot of backstory late in the show, which reveals something of the Sanctuary’s origins and the fate of Pan’s mom and dad. It’s a bit confusing, and some of this could
be cut. The projections by Liviu Pasare do a lot to keep things exciting—simulating texting, gaming and built-in surveillance states. Adventure Stage’s initiative is geared toward the local community, in this case Noble Square; it’s inspiring to see an array of kids excited about theater that they help create.