Strange Heart Beating Review – Compelling and Impressive

Lake (Stephanie Shum)

Cloudgate Theatre’s  world premiere of Strange Heart Beating, which runs through July 27th at The Frontier, 1106 W. Thorndale, was a powerful experience. My takeaway from the experience is that done well, the magic of theater can take place almost anywhere. The performance at this tiny storefront theater was wonderful. In the 85 minutes of the performance, a host of socially significant issues were highlighted and all the requirements of a compelling performance were fulfilled. Written by Cloudgate Artistic Director Kristin Idaszak and directed by Addie Gorlin, this mysterious and mystical story unravels.

Teeny (Jyreika Guest), Lena (Leah Raidt)

The intimate setting enhanced the experience as I felt drawn in to the action.  Narrator, Lake Stephanie Shum, speaking directly to audience members kept the story moving.  Haunting and mysterious, the turns and twists of the story were compelling.  There are many dark secret in the small midwestern town where these characters: Jyreika Guest (Teeny), Leah Raidt (Lena), Brandon Rodriguez (Ramon) live.  Only the loons in the lake really know the full story.

In this town it is the stranger who is least regarded, followed by those of color, and on the top are those you expect. Teeny and Lena grew up together in a rural midwestern town, dreaming of leaving for the big city. But now Teeny is the town sheriff and Lena is a newly single mother. When the body of Lena’s daughter is found near the lake outside of town, their friendship is stretched to the breaking point.  But Teeny’s investigation raises more questions than it answers: Have girls been going missing for years? Why are the loons acting so strange? What is the town hiding? Strange Heart Beating is a play about holding vigil, bearing witness, and unburying the truth.

Interrogation Teeny (Jyreika Guest), Ramon (Brandon Rodriguez)

The sound, lighting and costuming were extremely important and exceptionally well done.  The acting was superb- each character was nuanced and convincing.

The production teamincludes: Kristin Idaszak, playwright; Addie Gorlin, director; Elena Gonzalez Molina, assistant director; Tara Branham*, casting director; Tanuja Jagernauth*, dramaturg; Lila Gilbert*, production manager; Angela McIlvain, scenic designer; Anna Wooden*, costume designer; Kaili Story, lighting designer; Averi Paulsen, sound designer; Jay Epps, stage manager; Dominic DiGiovanni*, technical director; and Shane Kelly (producer). * Indicates Cloudgate Artistic Associate.

Industrial turkey barn Teeny (Jyreika Guest), Lena (Leah Raidt)

Tanuja Jagernauth, Strange Heart Beating dramaturg shares disturbing facts related to disappearances, and notes that, “In Chicago, we do not have access to specific data about the number of children that go missing each year and how many cases are cleared. What we do have access to is the 2017 murder clearance rate. “It’s 18.48%. The national clearance rate for murder in 2017, according to the FBI, was 61.6%.

Performance times are Mondays and, Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. Ticket are “Pay What You Want” in advance; ticket prices range from $5 – $45. Cloudgate also offers an open-door policy the day of performances that provides free tickets at the door, based on availability. Tickets are be available at the Cloudgate Theatre website

Lake (Stephanie Shum)

In this 85- minute performance, the world changes.  Take the time to experience this play.

Photos: Austin D Oie

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