August 1, 2012
The Vortex is told here in three acts (I saw a production in London several years ago told in two) which allows time for the set changes; and what glorious sets they are. Designer Edward Matthew Walter built a quasi-deco set with gilded mirrors, white lacquer baby grand pianos, swan beds and Biedermier like furniture. It is a feast for the eyes as are Elizabeth Wislar's costumes which fit each company member as if it were custom made couture.
At its core, The Vortex is the tale of a son's desperate need to feel loved and accepted by his mother. To this end Kaelan Strouse gives a tour de force performance as the chemically dependant Nicky. Mr. Stouse's complicated and witty performance is always a hair trigger away from exploding which keeps the audience brilliantly on edge. As each Act progresses, Nicky's nerves are tested as he tests everyone else's. It is not until what he feels is his mother's ultimate betrayal that Nicky emotionally collapses, reminiscent of a child throwing a temper tantrum. Mr. Strouse and Ms. Hilton dominant Act III as mother and son attempt to face their own demons by facing the family carnage of their actions.
It is no secret that these problems cut all close to home for Mr. Coward himself and his pain in Nicky's dialogue is palpable. More then that, The Vortex proves the relevancy of these issues (coming out, addiction, the skewed values of the wealthy, age discrimination and self worth) have become more prevalent in our culture now then ever before. Welcome Dead Writer's Collective for bringing us a masterpiece!
Noel Coward's The Vortex runs through August 26th at The Greenhouse Theatre Complex, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Performances are Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:30pm. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at www.deadwriters.net, or 773.404.7336,