Little Shop of Horrors has not grown gracefully into the new millennium | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Little Shop of Horrors has not grown gracefully into the new millennium 

Still, Mercury Theater's production hits all the right notes.

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Brett Beiner

In Little Shop of Horrors, most of New York's skid row residents are just trying to survive. They dream of moving to the 'burbs, owning a home, and finding love—elements of life that are less prioritized among members of a generation who are living with debilitating debt and wearing themselves out on side-hustles. The current Mercury Theater production, under the direction of L. Walter Stearns, hits the classic notes of rock, horror, and comedy—but in the age of movements like #MeToo, some of the plot elements feel a little off.

Seymour (Chris Kale Jones) is a poverty-stricken young man struggling to get his life together. An orphan, he was taken in as a small child by the greedy Mr. Mushnik (Tommy Novak), who runs a failing flower shop. It's the first among many relationships in the play that have unfortunate, sometimes killer power dynamics. Seymour works in Mr. Mushnik's shop alongside his love interest Audrey (Dana Tretta), who is stuck in a nonconsensual masochistic relationship with her boyfriend Orin—Dr. Orin (David Sajewich). With the entrance of an exotic plant of questionable provenance, everything changes.

Among the best elements of this production are Serena Sandoval's costumes and Martin P. Robinson's puppets. The chorus, an impeccable trio of women, is perfectly in step and deserving of its own musical. Transitioning from 90s schoolgirls to decadent divas, they are muses and quasi-feminists, encouraging Audrey to leave Orin (albeit for another man to protect her). There's much more text-wise that should have been left behind, but stellar direction and the choreography by Christopher Chase Carter keeps us entranced and looking ahead.   v

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