Soulstice Theatre’s “Chess”
Chess is a game of calculated risk. Chess (lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson), which the Soulstice Theatre is running through Aug. 14, aims to illustrate the risks of a colossal psychological arms race seemingly built into human DNA. The show binds together song, dance, U.S.-Soviet rivalries and the most exciting game in the world.
Chess is a risk for Soulstice, too. The company’s auditorium space, at the Marian Center for Non-Profits, presents challenges with sight lines. Even with a raked platform, it can be hard to make out the action on the stage-sized chess board, with its human game pieces. Fortunately, game action is not as crucial as the mood of the moment, which the actors communicate well. They make full use of the playing space on stage, on a nearby ramp and in the roomy aisles.
Florence (Lisa Gold), Anatoly (Brian Myers) and Freddie (Patrick Fennelly) lead the cast very well. Myers’ Russian chess master is unaffected, deliberate and powerful. When he sings Where I Want to Be, he forges a personality at once charged with energy and carefully concealed. His eyes say nothing; his voice says everything. Fennelly’s brash, all-American paparazzi darling, by contrast, is all power and no control. His big number, Pity the Child, was a little slow to pull us in but finally knocked it out of the park by bringing some humanizing honesty to a self-obsessed character. Gold’s Nobody’s on Nobody’s Side motivates the entire piece by tying interpersonal relations to the overreaching themes of international relations in a world of mutually assured destruction.
Chess benefits the Peace Learning Center of Milwaukee, Inc, which aims to be “a catalyst in the community for non-violent conflict management and respect for self, others, and the environment.”
Chess plays through August 14 at the Marian Center, 3211 S. Lake Dr., just off of S. Superior Street. For tickets, $14 and $12, call 414 431-3187. Note that the Marian Center’s auditorium is all the way around the building and up three flights of stairs. Visit the Soulstice website for further information.