Big Lake Big City: Big Fun

Like your plays served up with a side of crazy? Keith Huff’s “Big Lake Big City” delivers.

Directed by Lookingglass Theatre ensemble member David Schwimmer, the play is reminiscent of a dysfunctional dinner at your Aunt Edna’s—complete with the unhappily married “successful” couple, the cop on his second marriage, and the brother who just can’t get his act together.

Dysfunction is the key here—stylistically, the play jumps from one set of characters to another, seemingly jumbled until the plot is well underway. Beth Lacke and Kareem Bandealy are fantastic as the married Susan and Peter, one a wants-to-get-pregnant psych and the other a self-esteem-lacking pathologist.

Eddie Martinez and J. Salome Martinez play opposite each other as brothers Stewart and Trent—one using another trying to straighten out his life. When tempers flare, tools go flying, making a screwdriver and Shriner’s tam one of the best uses of inanimate objects in theater this season.

Philip R. Smith, as Detective Bass, carries on three relationships in this story of pairs—one with partner and comedic foil Danny Goldring as Getz, another with his floozy ex-escort wife Ally, played by Katherine Cunningham, and a third with Lacke as Bass and Susan try to figure out just who (Spoiler!) offed their spouses.

The solo acts that string all the stories together include Wendy Mateo as Maria, the down-on-her-luck travel agent that calls on Susan when she takes too much Xanax and falls for “screwy” Stew; Thomas J. Cox as the insurance investigator with Susan’s future in his hands; and last but not least, Anthony Fleming III as the nefarious Moss, the criminal Bass tried to put away and from whom both Ally and Stew tried to escape.

As with any production at Lookingglass, everyone is in top form—the play is superbly acted. If anything threw me, Bandealy’s second act hairpiece and sunglasses had me thinking Uday Hussein (his turn in “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”) was making a guest appearance. But in this case, I have to give it up for Smith and Eddie Martinez. Smith plays the part of a frustrated cop with comedic genius, and Martinez’ turn as a loser of a guy who realizes his life really is coming to an end is both funny and touching.

“Big Lake Big City” is a two-hour voyeuristic tour into a fictional Chicago underbelly that can occasionally shock, but leave you highly entertained.

 

“Big Lake Big City” runs through August 11 at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $36 – $70 and can be purchased on Lookingglass Theatre’s website or by phone at 312-337-0665.