Review: Why Do You Always Wear Black? (Organic Theater)

| March 24, 2018

Kat Christensen stars in Why Do You Always Wear Black, Organic Theater            
      

  

Why Do You Always
     Wear Black?

 
Based on works by Anton Chekhov  
Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru April 8  |  tix: $25  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

Dedicated cast comes up short on disconnected Chekhov exploration

  

Kat Christensen, Nyssa Lowenstein, Ariana Silvan-Grau and Taylor Wisham star in Why Do You Always Wear Black

    
Organic Theater Company presents
    
Why Do You Always Wear Black?

Review by Lauren Whalen

It’s hard to know what to say about Why Do You Always Wear Black? An all-female, actor-devised piece inspired by the works of Anton Chekhov, it’s only an hour in length and very, very disconnected. Will they ever get to Moscow? I’m sure you know the answer to that. The cast is both talented and clearly passionate about the source material, which seems essential to the audience’s understanding and enjoyment of the piece. Why Do You Always Wear Black? is well-thought out and a good idea in theory, but even by experimental theater standards, not worth the ticket price.Taylor Wisham stars in Why Do You Always Wear Black, Organic Theater

The play’s press release states, “Why Do You Always Wear Black? will examine the problematic aspects of Chekhov’s work, challenge conventions and expectations of classical theater, and ultimately question to whom these works belong.” If you think this sounds like a graduate MFA thesis project, we’re on the same page. Just like in the original source material, the women long for Moscow, sit on the couch and contemplate the nature of their existence and presence in the world. In this take on Chekhov, sometimes they sing; sometimes they crunch a lot of crackers and spill them from their mouths to the floor. A series of 20 vignettes exploring female characters from The Cherry Orchard, Three Sisters and other Chekhov works, Why Do You Always Wear Black? ranges wildly from lovely and contemplative to eye-rolling and ridiculous in a very long 60 minutes.

If Why Do You Always Wear Black? has a saving grace, it’s the gifted director, cast and designers. Pauline Oleksy creates a lovely facsimile of a Chekhovian home, complete with fireplace, tea service and plenty of dark, somber tones. From the second I stepped into the Greenhouse Theater Center’s upstairs studio, I knew I was in Chekhov’s world. Costume designer Angela Enos’ concept and execution are stellar, adding modern touches like leather and zippers to the typical historically accurate garments. Director Anna Gelman, who is certified by the Moscow Art Theatre School, worked closely with her ensemble, and it shows: the cast is radiant and enthusiastic. Taylor Wisham and Kat Christensen’s energy seems the best suited to Chekhov, but Nyssa Lowenstein and Ariana Silvan-Grau have wonderful, authentic moments as well.

Ariana Silvan-Grau stars in Why Do You Always Wear Black, Organic Theater (photo by Anna Gelman) Taylor Wisham, Nyssa Lowenstein, Kat Christensen and Ariana Silvan-Grau star in Why Do You Always Wear BlackTaylor Wisham and Kat Christensen star in Why Do You Always Wear Black, Organic Theater Kat Christensen stars in Why Do You Always Wear Black,  Organic Theater (photo by Anna Gelman)Nyssa Lowenstein and Ariana Silvan-Grau star in Why Do You Always Wear Black, Organic Theater Company

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Why Do You Always Wear Black? Chekhov is always interesting to discuss, and the director and cast are clearly talented and dedicated to the work. However, the feminist exploration of the characters never seems to go very deep. Even in an hour’s time, there’s great potential for analysis, yet the analysis is not fully realized. The most compelling vignettes are near the end: “A Chekhovian Scene That Passes the Bechdel Test” (the title speaks for itself) and “In Defense of Natasha,” in which Three Sisters’ conniving sister-in-law finally gets to say her piece. If all vignettes had been as thoughtful and intelligent as the previous two, Why Do You Always Wear Black? may have felt more like a fully-realized production and less like a graduate thesis. I definitely don’t dislike the production and its premise, but can only slightly recommend it.

  
Rating: ★★½
  

Why Do You Always Wear Black? continues through April 8th at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln (map), with performances Wednesdays-Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 3pm & 8pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $25, and are available by phone (773-404-7336) or online at GreenhouseTheater.org (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at OrganicTheater.org(Running time: 1 hour, no intermission)

Kat Christensen stars in Why Do You Always Wear Black, Organic Theater

Photos by Anna Gelman


  

artists

cast

Kat Christensen, Nyssa Lowenstein, Ariana Silvan-Grau, Taylor Wisham

behind the scenes

Anna Gelman (director, photos), Julia Rufo (assistant director), Angela Kring (stage manager), Angela Enos (costume design), Tony Reimer, Morgan Hunter (co-sound design), Pauline Oleksy (scenic design), Ryan Breneisen (lighting design)

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Category: 2018 Reviews, Adaptation, Anton Chekhov, Greenhouse Theater Center, Lauren Emily Whalen, Organic Theatre

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