Review: Animals Out of Paper (Shattered Globe Theatre)

| January 19, 2016

Awate Serequeberhan stars as Suresh in Shattered Globe Theatre's "Animals Out of Paper" by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Devon de Mayo. (photo by Michael Brosilow)          
      
   

Animals Out of Paper

Written by Rajiv Joseph
Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru Feb 27 |  tix: $33  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   


    
  

Darkly humorous and profound

  

Cortney McKenna and Awate Serequeberhan in Shattered Globe Theatre's "Animals Out of Paper" by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Devon de Mayo. (photo by Michael Brosilow)

    
Shattered Globe Theatre presents
    
Animals Out of Paper

Review by Lauren Whalen 

Art means wildly different things to different people. For Ilana, it’s a livelihood that’s increasingly eluding her once-capable hands. For Andy, it’s a sweet escape from the daily grind and yet another blessing to count. And for Suresh…who knows? Animals Out of Paper is an unconventional story of romance, friendship and loss centered on an art that’s unfamiliar to many: origami. Pulitzer Prize nominee Rajiv Joseph’s script is funny, fresh and only occasionally frustrating, the bumps smoothed over by a compelling cast and a set that borders on genius.

Awate Serequeberhan and Cortney McKenna in Shattered Globe Theatre's "Animals Out of Paper" by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Devon de Mayo. (photo by Michael Brosilow)Most of Animals Out of Paper is set in Ilana’s (Courtney McKenna) studio, also her home since her divorce and the loss of her disabled dog. Save for the occasional conference appearance, Ilana prefers to hole up in her space full of paper creations and empty Chinese food cartons, trying to find the motivation for her latest commission. Enter Andy (Joseph Wiens), origami hobbyist, calculus teacher and Ilana’s number-one fan. He asks her to mentor high school senior Suresh (Awate Serequeberhan), who’s been drifting since his mother’s tragic death but displays an almost-scary acumen for folding and creating his own origami patterns. What follows is a simple but lovely story of relationships, inspiration, and what happens when the two collide.

Joseph is no stranger to terrific writing – his 2010 play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo was nominated for a Pulitzer in 2010, and he’s penned several works for stage and screen. Animals Out of Paper is my first experience with a Joseph script, and I had an excellent first sample: the dialogue is natural, the beats and emotions organic and the action intimate. Even in 2016, complex female protagonists are few and far between. Ilana isn’t always likable or sympathetic, but her struggles to connect – with her fellow humans and with the art that once fulfilled her – are incredibly real. Everyone knows someone like Andy, the eternal optimist and so refreshingly naïve it almost hurts to see his game smile and hear his cheery words. Equal parts thoughtful and impulsive, selfish and openhearted, Suresh is perhaps one of the most believable teenage characters in modern theater. Though I do wish Ilana experienced a bit more growth during the arc of the play, Animals Out of Paper tugged at my heartstrings and educated me about the complex world of origami. McKenna, Wiens and Serequeberhan perfectly embody these complex characters, their triumphs and conflicts with one another, and their endless questions for connection and fulfillment.

Cortney McKenna and Awate Serequeberhan in Shattered Globe Theatre's "Animals Out of Paper" by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Devon de Mayo. (photo by Michael Brosilow) Cortney McKenna and Joe Wiens in Shattered Globe Theatre's "Animals Out of Paper" by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Devon de Mayo. (photo by Michael Brosilow)Joe Wiens and Cortney McKenna in Shattered Globe Theatre's "Animals Out of Paper" by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Devon de Mayo. (photo by Michael Brosilow)

Even with such a stellar cast and excellent writing, this production would be less complete without Grant Sabin’s innovative set design. Well-known throughout the Chicago theater scene for his ability to design phenomenal sets on a small budget, Sabin has won scholarships and awards and was recently named one of the “Top 50 Players in Chicago Theater” by Newcity magazine. In short, he’s a find. Sabin’s design for Animals Out of Paper is small but intimate, reminiscent of the origami with which the characters are so obsessed. Though ostensibly the set is Ilana’s studio, little surprises lurk around every corner, under tables and on the ceiling. No detail is ignored, and the design is a thoughtful, careful work of art. Origami artist Christine Edison (like Andy, she started out as a public school math teacher) contributed the tiny, gorgeous pieces that litter Sabin’s set – if you have time when entering or exiting the theater, take a second look at the bright colors and intricate, stunning folds.

Like most good stories, Animals Out of Paper is at once very small and very large. Not much happens, but everything does. In some ways, productions such as this are difficult to summarize and review, and must be experienced. See Animals Out of Paper. Absorb it. Then afterwards, try to fold some paper, or make a design of your own.

  
Rating: ★★★½
  
   

Animals Out of Paper continues through February 27th at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $33 (with discounts for students-$15, under 30 – $20, and seniors-$27), and are available by phone (773-975-8150) or online through TheaterWit.org (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at SGTheatre.org(Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes without intermission)

Awate Serequeberhan and Cortney McKenna in Shattered Globe Theatre's "Animals Out of Paper" by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Devon de Mayo. (photo by Michael Brosilow)

Photos by Michael Brosilow 


  

artists

cast

Cortney McKenna (Ilana), Joseph Wiens (Andy), Awate Serequeberhan (Suresh), Steve Peebles (u/s Andy), Abdu Hytrek (u/s Suresh), Elisa Dei (u/s Ilana)

behind the scenes

Devon de Mayo (director), Grant Sabin (scenic design), Sarah Jo White (costume design), Brian Healy (lighting design), Stephen Gawrit (sound design), David Antonio Reed (props master), Vivian Knouse (co-props master), Christine Edison (origami design), Steve Peebles (assistant director), Kelly Claussen (production manager), Stephanie Hurovitz (stage manager), Amanda Rozmiarek (technical director), Michael Trudeau (master electrician), Juli Del Prete (assistant stage manager), Milo Bue (assistant scenic designer), Michael Brosilow (photos)

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Category: 2016 Reviews, Lauren Emily Whalen, Shattered Globe, Theater Wit

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