The Day Room | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Day Room 

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THE DAY ROOM, at the Irish American Heritage Center. In a perfect world all but the most brilliant plays would be filed in a drawer and forgotten. Certainly this is what J. Sean Callan should have done with The Day Room, a long, unfocused, relentlessly undramatic two-act about life in a Dublin nursing home that's the first of his plays to be produced.

Callan has a good ear for Irish speech--he's a physician born and raised in Dublin--and uses it to good effect when he isn't driving home the message that mercy killing is sometimes a good thing. But he hasn't mastered the craft of telling a story onstage. What little plot there is to his play, about an elderly man who wishes to die, is barely enough to fill one episode of ER. Yet Callan's predictable tale takes two and a half hours to unfold, partly because it's padded with an even more predictable subplot about the nursing home going under and lots of purportedly charming scenes of daily life in the home.

To be fair, Callan's play has hardly been given the best production. Despite protestations to the contrary, it looks and sounds like your average community-theater effort. Maureen Cashin's direction is merely serviceable, and the acting ranges from pretty good to downright awful. Catastrophically, one of the worst actors, Amy Barber, is onstage for almost the entire show, slowing its pace even further with her flat, sluggish portrayal of the nursing-home director.

--Jack Helbig

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