4 Places – The Den Theater – 1333 N Milwaukee., Chicago, (773) 697-3830, thedentheatre.com – Deceptively simple in its structure and unfolding in real time, this emotionally precise play deploys its spare components to devastating and darkly comic effect. A brother and sister have gotten word from their elderly parents’ caretaker that they may be a danger to each other. The brother joins his sister and mother on their weekly lunch date, hoping that he and his sister can get a clearer picture of the situation. As the mother confronts the indignities of age and the children stare down a mounting list of losses and disappointments, a harrowing and true-to-life image of the family emerges.
Q-tips say: It was ok – but some were laughing and we were like – what are they finding funny? Perhaps we felt that way because we are getting older.
‘Four Places’ is a fast-paced one act about two siblings dealing with aging parents. The action is fairly simple; a car ride to lunch, the meal and the car ride back. Warren (Bruch Reed) and Ellen (Amy Montgomery) are the disgruntled siblings. Throughout, there’s an underlying bitterness between the adult children and their mother. Peggy their mother (Meg Thalken) first appears as any other sweet old lady with a slight distance from modern life. The awkwardness seems merely like a generational gap. Once they begin the lunch, the revelations unfold and we get a glimpse into not only this specific family, but the aging process in general.
This is a tight-knit cast and the nature of the play requires it to be so. Montgomery and Reed are convincing siblings. There’s a familiar chemistry between them adds a complicated layer to the story. They love each other, but rarely like each other. Reed is the sensitive one and Montgomery is the tough one. Good cop, bad cop. Johnson’s play is about how uncomfortable it is to age, especially into the twilight years when control and dignity begin to slip away.
‘Four Places’ is a very bleak dark comedy. It asks what happens when the parental/child roles reverse. Each scene is perfectly structured, the needs of the characters are so clear that the ending sneaks up on you. You may not cry but you’ll certainly wonder, what are we going to do about mom?
Yes, what to do with Mom? It should be “what to do about Dad? Dad is asking Mom to kill him and put him out of his pain. Mrs. Q says: What type of care giver did they have that she could not suggest getting hospice involved instead of complaining about Mom. Mrs. Q’s favorite character was Warren. He was sensitive and the women seemed to not give him time to speak out. They coined this play as a bleak dark comedy? It should not considered a comedy, in my opinion.