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The Chicago Landmark Project at Theatre Seven of Chicago | Theater review

A short-play series benefits from its sense of place.

Photograph: Amanda Clifford
Joe Zarrow and Tracey Kaplan in Theatre Seven of Chicago's Chicago Landmark Project

Program A of the Chicago Landmark Project kicks off with an examination of one of Chicago’s great organizing ideas. In “State & Madison: The Chicago Grid,” Theatre Seven resident playwright Marisa Wegrzyn presents imagined exchanges between Edward Brennan, the citizen who agitated for uniform street-naming and address-numbering in the first decade of the 20th century, and his map-weary wife. Wegrzyn captures, in ten cheeky minutes, much of what’s to be loved about urban living in general and a specific sense of pride in Chicago.

That’s true of the Landmark Project as a whole. The slate of 12 short plays, presented in two programs, is uneven, as is to be expected with any such assortment. But by asking its writers to name their plays for intersections, the Landmark Project gives them an organizing idea: a sense of place.

That doesn’t mean these Chicago-set works are provincial or exclusionary. Most could be set elsewhere; Brett Neveu’s piece, which has ultra-charming actors Katy Albert and Jonathan Baude bonding over the new wave stacks at Laurie’s Planet of Sound, could take place in any number of record stores, while Yolanda Nieves’s entry feels tied more to ethnic and class identities than to Humboldt Park’s Puerto Rican flag markers specifically.

Chicagoans know those steel flags and Laurie’s and Navy Pier; or maybe we don’t personally know Thillens Stadium, Oz Park or the Arab-American Community Center at 63rd & Kedzie. But these stories resonate more strongly because we know these tangible pieces of our city inspired these writers, just as it inspires us.

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