When his ex-wife dies in a car accident, John inherits the house they once shared, to the displeasure of Camille, his sister-in-law who’d like the place for herself. They end up sharing it for a time as John, a recovering alcoholic and plagiarist who supports himself writing low-rent bodice-rippers, fends off his agent’s plea for more substantial work. Will John get his act together? Will he and Camille find neutral ground—or something more? The play hardly needs additional plot, and yet playwright Robert Koon piles it on by inserting the ghost of Marie (John’s ex-wife), an anthropomorphic version of the dead who wanders through scenes wearing a ratty cardigan and a beatific gaze. Her presence weighs down what would otherwise be an affecting story about people at odds with themselves, a character type Koon captured with equal dexterity in 2002’s “Vintage Red and the Dust of the Rose.” Here is a playwright who knows how to capture the dry humor of everyday talk—“It’s fucking Pavlovian,” John retorts when asked if he’s attended a meeting recently—but the scenarios involving Marie, the cloying apparition, nearly drown out the good stuff. Director Anna C. Bahow’s production at Chicago Dramatists includes a very compelling performance from Danica Ivancevic as Camille; with a stunning face and a womanly body, Ivancevic is always a boost to any show she is in. As John’s agent, Lucas Kwan Peterson invests some real bite into what could have been a two-dimensional role. One other thing: I may have zoned out during a crucial line of dialogue, but I never actually caught where this play is supposed to be set. Marie and Camille are native French speakers, but it’s never made clear if we are in France, the U.S. or somewhere in the land of French Canadians. It leaves you feeling entirely disconnected with the story at hand. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.