From the moment the lights go up and Bib is describing his twin brother's beheading by fundamental Muslim radicals as "God's will", you know are in for an unsettling evening of theatre. In ‘Jack's Precious Moment', playwright Samuel D. Hunter attempts to give us a story of a Christian family whose faith is tested on a myriad of levels. Jack was, at his core, a horrible human being who beat his wife, loved drugs and more than likely, killed his own mother. So when he is murdered in Iraq in such a graphic and public fashion (the beheading is a You Tube sensation) the family aftermath is one that could be of great dramatic gravitas and cultural irony. Instead, this uneven and often times insulting script coupled with Azar Kazemi's manic direction gives the characters no sense of believability which ultimately destroys any chance the actors have give truth to what they are being asked to relate.
The would-be humor of the piece is often left to Jack's widow Karen (Havalah Grace) who is obsessed with Precious Moments and wants to have her husband's death memorialized as a figurine. To that end she enlists Bib (Ed Porter) and his father (a slightly miscast Kevin Mullaney) to travel with her to the Precious Moment's company headquarters, in search of a spiritual healing and redemption. Each character seeks to find closure in different ways, but in the end, no one really cares.
That is a shame because the cast, for the most part, is quite engaging. Ed Porter's Bib is sympathetic and forthright, giving his character a very engaging arch from being self loathing and destructive to becoming a person able to receive love. Equally as good is Bryan Hart who plays Chuck, a person you would not want controlling your ride at Six Flags. Havalah Grace also does quite well in a role that is written with no sense of realness. It is that lack of any type of realness that keeps the audience at a distance from the piece, and ultimately is the play's downfall. Though we are not required to like characters in a particular play, there must be some commonality of emotions that are identifiable. The humor and pathos in ‘Jack's Precious Moment' seems merely intended for shock value and how the characters relate to each other is neither engaging nor truthful.
‘Jack's Precious Moment' is presented by Will Act For Food and runs through February 25th at Chemically Imbalanced Theatre, 1420 W. Irving Park Rd., Chicago. For tickets please visit www.willactforfood.com/tix