Invasion of the Minnesota Normals

In Jen Ellison’s play, which might be titled Waiting for Roy, Ruth McKinley (Deborah F. Reed) plays hostess on a rainy night in a 1950s Chicago suburb. As the guests arrive, they remark on the absence of her husband, who is still at work, but nonetheless kick off the evening with liberal amounts of liquor, snide chitchat and questions from a personality test that Roy had brought home a few days earlier. The “game” begins innocently enough, with Walter (Rich Hutchman), Stanley (Peter Breitmayer) and Helen (Anne von Herrmann) reading questions and attempting to answer them truthfully, but it quickly degenerates to reveal simmering hostilities. As the evening wears on, the questions become more pointed, especially when new neighbors from Minnesota arrive and it’s discovered that Robert (Brad David Reed) and Mary (Judy Heneghan) were part of the test’s control group. Tensions escalate, and secrets come to the fore, as the definition of “normal” is questioned, cracking the veneer of domestic Midwestern tranquillity and revealing its dark underbelly. Melissa Denton’s deft direction keeps multiple balls in the air, and Troy Wilderson’s beautifully naturalistic set, complete with a “rain window,” adds to the feeling of claustrophobia in the pressure cooker of the living room. The entire cast give great performances, truly eliciting the suburban discontent in a play that is reminiscent of the works of both Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: March 15. Continues through April 19, 2008


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