Forget haunted houses. The most chilling experience in Chicago at this moment is Red Tape Theatre's unsettling production of Caryl Churchill's The Skriker. That's not to say this show, which is smartly staged as a shape-shifting promenade by Eric Hoff, is filled with soil-yer-pants "boo!" moments. Rather, the moment you enter Red Tape's "gymnasium from doom" venue, Hoff and company set a sinister tone that never loosens its grip for nearly two hours.
This is my second time seeing this curiously creepy play, and each time I'm amazed at the work done by the lead, which requires an actress capable of memorizing long streams of jargon phrases, and spitting them out with a mix of danger, anger, coyness and spite. Sadie Rogers crackles as the Skriker in Red Tape's production, and from the moment she's "birthed" before our disoriented group, she begins bewitching us.
This isn't a play for everyone. I could see many confused faces as we took this journey into the underworld together. And who can blame them? Churchill's script explores greed, motherhood, sexuality, obsession, isolation, mental illness and sanity -- oftentimes in a single scene. The plot, which concerns the Skriker attempting to possess two teenage mothers, Lily and Josie (Carrie Drapac and Amanda Drinkall, respectively), is both distressing and confounding. Who is the Skriker? What does she represent? I had my unique theory (which I explained to my friends after the show, as they looked back at me through their beers with perplexed faces), but I encourage you to form your own interpretation. Bring an open mind, a sense of adventure and comfortable shoes as you enter Red Tape's underworld.
"The Skriker" plays through October 20 at Red Tape Theatre. More info here.