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  The Sweeter Option at Strawdog Theatre

The Sweeter Option

Strawdog Theatre
1802 W. Berenice Chicago

Chicago's Strawdog Theatre celebrates its 100th production with the world premiere of John Henry Roberts' The Sweeter Option. A low-rent investigator named Tucker tracks a stolen rent-a-car and stumbles neck-deep into an embezzlement scheme gone sour. There's enough cash up for grabs to finance a whole new life, but the only way to it is through Irene Pike, a suburban housewife who is clearly more than she lets on. But what, exactly? This fast-paced and darkly funny psychological thriller set in 1971 Chicagoland, is directed by Lookingglass Theatre's Marti Lyons, who helmed Haven Theatre's hit production of Seminar and The Gift Theatre's Mine.

Thru - Mar 28, 2015



Price: $28

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 773-528-9696

Running Time: 1hr, 20mins

www.strawdog.org



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  The Sweeter Option Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Somewhat Recommended

"...The playwright, Roberts, is a local guy, a longtime actor and Strawdog ensemble member. He's written some juicy, sardonic dialogue, most spoken by tough-as-nails characters. With Sam Guinan-Nyhart in the lead role, the action is dominated by a two-bit investigator named Tucker — he gets by as a rental-car repo man working for Hertz out of Michigan City — and Irene Pike (Michaela Petro), the mysterious North Shore housewife he encounters in the course of his duties and who has all kind of schemes and passions beating in her feverish, and maybe diabolic, Wilmette heart. Roberts holds off on Tucker's real identity until late in the 80 minutes of action, but the revelation is so densely packed in there, it's hardly a home run."
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Chris Jones


Chicago Reader - Not Recommended

"...More problematic, director Marti Lyons’s awkwardly paced Strawdog premiere provides little incentive to care about Tucker or his world. Her cast struggle to render Roberts’s highly styled dialogue persuasive, creating an evening of indistinct motivations and murky relationships. And for all the intriguing plot twists and sordid interludes, the 85-minute piece rarely digs much beneath its pulpy surface."
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Justin Hayford


Windy City Times - Highly Recommended

"...Roberts' personnel adheres to generic types, but the cast assembled by director Marti Lyons embrace their hackneyed mannerisms with a steely-eyed concentration that grabs our attention and keeps us riveted in anticipation of each sudden reversal. ( Is there a more alluring femme fatale on the storefront circuit than Michaela Petro? Or a likelier candidate for fall guy than Rudy Galvan? ) The results make for a yarn that unspools swiftly and relentlessly for the 80 minutes it takes to arrive at a conclusion still curiously satisfying, for all its loose-ended enigma."
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Mary Shen Barnidge


Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...Many of the show's 80 minutes involve Petro and Guinan-Nyhart's being holed up in one place or another, and Marti Lyons's production capitalizes on the two actors' dormant, potentially volatile friction. Stylistically, it's also not hard to envision these two as 1970s stars; both possess a classic look reflected by the production's noir design. Inspired lighting and sound—one scene involving a character fading in and out of sleep is particularly clever for its sheer simplicity and effectiveness—complement Joanna Iwanicka's morphing set. It's a technical feast, and a continuation of Strawdog's tradition of imaginatively telling sweeping stories in a small space."
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Dan Jakes


Stage and Cinema - Not Recommended

"...Happily, there can be no spoilers where there are no expectations. The audience, as much as these greedsters, is left in the lurch. The culprit: cryptic “one-liner” dialogue that feeds on what we don’t know until we don’t care. By welcome end Strawdog’s pointless exercise in film noir angst makes you want the real deal–Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett. What we get is Quentin Tarentino lite."
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Lawrence Bommer


ChicagoCritic - Recommended

"...Despite my quibbles with how the story was presented, I still enjoyed it. Tucker and Irene are fun characters once we get to know them, though that takes a while. The play seems set in the 60s, but there's nothing annoying about that, it just creates a short-hand for what kind of world this is. Ryan Bourque's fight choreography contributes a lot of excitement to the evening, and the script in turn heightens the gentler moments in between all the scheming. I still don't know why the scenes are out of order, and it can be confusing, but I think most people will follow closely enough to remain interested."
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Jacob Davis


Chicago Stage Standard - Recommended

"...The Sweeter Option is a new twist on classic elements and despite it’s less than palatable subject matter, well worth your time and attention."

Kaitlyn Kearn


Around The Town Chicago - Somewhat Recommended

"...I watched this 80 minutes of scene changing and costume changing and became more confused as the story continued. I will say that the set (Joanna Iwanicka has done some very neat things in this very intimate 80 seat space) is creative and the way the scenes change unique with the cast of actors taking on the changes, in character. The lighting (Jordan Kardasz) and sound (Heath Hays) all add to the story, but it is the story that I found lacking. In fact, perhaps John Henry Roberts should have made the play longer than 80 minutes and added more to the story so we could figure out exactly what had happened."
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Alan Bresloff


NewCity Chicago - Somewhat Recommended

"...But there's no show without a book. Roberts' first scenes are exactly right. The ethos is established quickly, the jokes come rapid-fire, always out of character-truth, and passions are dialed just over the top, so we can all sleep in our own beds. Using the trope of flashback, Roberts is still on track, until imperative clues to the timeline land with such a whisper that they are only to be guessed at hours later. Smaller characters and subplots arrive and disappear, seeming to have no direct relationship to the unsatisfying ending."
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Aaron Hunt


Chicago Theatre Review - Somewhat Recommended

"...Bravo to this award-winning storefront theatre company, celebrating its 27th season, who consistently produce excellent plays that challenge both its artists and audiences. Unfortunately, this play isn’t an example of their best work because the script is such a confusion. The production is interesting, often exciting, features some fine acting and is supported by excellent production values, but the story is simply too muddled to follow. Perhaps one day rewrites will transform this film noir-style play into a clearer, more coherent drama. As it now plays, audiences are simply left dazed and confused."
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Colin Douglas


The Fourth Walsh - Highly Recommended

"...Lyons masterfully keeps the story edgy and stylized. Her design team makes scene transitions playfully seamless. Sound Designer Heath Hays cranks up a repeating melody. And cast and crew harmoniously rotate, unfold, and erect five distinct locales by Scenic Designer Joanna Iwanicka. The transitions are part of the evolving riddle as I wonder where to now?"
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Katy Walsh


  The Sweeter Option Photo Gallery

   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.


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