In its fifteenth and final festival, Collaboraction ensures that “Sketchbook” makes a lasting impression. The performances are separated into two programs: “Life” and “Death.”
Both “Life” and “Death” feature eight pieces. The “Life” program’s set is fairly light and comical. Highlights of this program include “Silenced” by Arlene Malinowski, a play with few words that captures tension on an El train, and “Spanx You Very Much” created by Dani Bryant and choreographed by Sheena Laird. This dance number features nearly fifty women coming to terms with beauty standards and strutting their stuff in spandex and nylon as one woman pines to fit into a perfect party dress–with a little help from the name-brand tummy-tuckers.
The “Death” program is far lighter than it sounds. As a whole, it is stronger than the “Life” program. The scripts and acting feel tighter. While some pieces are rather heavy they are balanced nicely with more uplifting sketches. This set features “The After” by Samantha Dedian, a gripping performance about the after-effects of rape, “I <3 Juliet” devised by The Q Brothers, which puts a hip-hop spin on Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, and “We Call You Family; We Call You Memory” by Andrew Grigg, a bittersweet piece about a dog’s transition from pet to full-fledged family member.
Watching both programs back-to-back is not as daunting as it may seem. “Life” and “Death” are each under two hours long. Festival passes allow audience members to see a sketch or two one night and see the rest of the set on another. The passes also give the buyer access to special events, like artist lectures that take place in conjunction with the festival.
With sixteen different short plays to choose from, “Sketchbook” contains something for everyone. (Mary Kroeck)
Collaboraction at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 West Division, (312)226-9633, collaboraction.org, $15-$30 for single tickets, $30-$55 for All-Access festival passes. Through January 24.