The century called 2020 is still clutching us in its wolf jaws, violently shaking us from side-to-side, not even close to finished with us. But we each answer this hysteria differently, don’t we? Sometimes we try to pretend it isn’t happening, or that it doesn’t really matter, or if it matters then it doesn’t matter that much. But we all know better, giving the lie to every smile and quip we might be able to assemble to get us through the next Zoom meeting. What would it be like if we could all just open the window, and scream-rant from the bottom of our guts freeform, projectile personal poetry that heralds what is really going on in our very souls? How would the true song sound?
Chicago playwright Ike Holter’s new audio play, “I Hate It Here: Stories from the End of the Old World,” streaming through March 11, gives us a taste of what that gangrenous cacophony might be like, if we could all connect and share. Holter has pushed through in 2020, continuing to absorb and communicate out, and this commissioned work out of D.C. offers up many of the questions that are the only truthful answers. In vignettes, we meet little pieces of our friends, our families, and some of those hunks of ourselves we keep under our biggest, meanest boots. Holter’s work can be razor-sharp and faster than a speeding bullet, but it always has a grace and a lightness that lets him balance the weight of the messages he needs to deliver. While it seems that this might be a heavy piece of listening—and it is substantial—let there be no mistake: there are moments of bubbling wit and righteous humor that help us ride the wave.
The production values are of extremely high quality, particularly the sound design of Mikhail Fiksel. Chicagoans will be delighted to hear some of their favorite performers creating full-throated characters in this piece, such as Sydney Charles, Kirsten Fitzgerald, Tony Santiago, Gabriel Ruiz and Behzad Dabu. And while you’re listening to these people living on the precipice, trying to tell, or keep from telling their stories, you may find some words that help you put yours in perspective.
Studio Theatre (DC), streaming through March 11 at studiotheatre.org. Free.