Person or Persons Unknown | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Person or Persons Unknown 

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Person or Persons Unknown, Wing & Groove Theatre. When four people are mysteriously gunned down in a diner, it's a tragedy for the families--and a field day for the local news team. In this nonlinear suspense drama, playwright John David Westby dissects the gruesome events, making some strong statements about the manufacture and marketing of news. The first act focuses on local coverage, splicing video clips with behind-the-scenes skirmishes between two journalists (Jaime Kelsey and Deborah Leydig) competing for an interview with a victim's daughter (Amy Tourne). The second act jumps back a year to reveal the relationships between the victims and the interactions leading up to the fatal final moment.

The play's unusual construction--Westby has shredded the action into more than 30 mini scenes--and this production's harsh technical design (Anna Baskin's stark white scenery, Josh Horvath's grating sound design, and Joshua Michaels's on/off, white/yellow lighting) are appropriately jarring and discomforting. The performances are equally raw and sharp--up until the last scene, when the actors and director Jeremy Reynolds seem to have either run out of rehearsal time or failed to figure out how to handle Westby's rather unsatisfying ending. Reynolds has clearly worked hard to achieve extreme precision in this challenging format, but he may need to orchestrate the tension level so that the audience at least has a sense of building toward a climax instead of jerking to an abrupt and disappointing halt.

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