In a Basement | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

In a Basement 

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In A Basement, Excaliber Shakespeare Company of Chicago, at New Harrison Street Galleries Studio Theatre. It's where your parents store their unused exercise equipment. It's where a new wife moves her husband's bachelor-pad furniture. But to playwright-director L.C. Satterfield, the basement is a metaphor for the pathetic downward spiral of a human soul given over to drugs. Satterfield inflicts this fate on Elton (Sean Nix), a solid family man who falls under the influence of misguided childhood friend Billy Ray (Kenneth Johnson). Within months Elton is going down full tilt, losing family, job, and mind and living (where else?) in his dealer's basement.

Could this happen? Absolutely. Could it happen the way Satterfield has written it? Doubtful. Would Elton, reduced to lobotomized cellar-rat status, have the mental presence to ask God, "Does my plight even rate your concern, or am I just an inconsequential statistic?" Most people aren't that eloquent when they're straight. Would a wife and mother, upon realizing that her husband has robbed his family blind to buy smack, send him off with love and "I'll always think of the good times"?

Satterfield needs to offer a less pat, more horrific image of this debilitating affliction. Then he might tighten the production's painful pace and correct Nix's slurred speech and memory lapses so that audiences can distinguish straight Elton from high Elton. Fortunately the other performances are solid (including his own as the dealer), so bleak as things look now, there is hope for rehabilitation.

--Kim Wilson


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