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New York City Theater

"The Undeniable Sound of Right Now"
Rattlestick Theater

It’s the guitars. Whether stroked like a lover or angrily plunked like someone seeking revenge, the instruments are talismans for the chasm that does not bridge past, present and future. Rather, they’re reverberations of troubles encountered in Laura Eason’s forceful “The Undeniable Sound of Right Now,” presented by Rattlestick Playwrights and Women’s Project Theaters.

The scene is Hank’s Bar in Chicago; the time is 1992, on the cusp of change from live musicians to platter spinners. The place is run down, grungy, seedy, a shadow of what it was when Hank, the proprietor, famously booked up-and- coming rock acts. It was a revolutionary mecca then, a hangout for cognoscenti who valued quality and satisfaction.

Now it’s changing, drowning really in the advent of soulless raves where spinning music, one character contends, “brings people together,” to which Hank counters. “It’s the drugs. “People don’t get closer to each other; they get closer to themselves.” Played with cold deliberation and a warm but broken heart by Jeb Brown, Hank loves both the past and his daughter with unalloyed passion.

Beset on several sides, Hank’s emotional world is crumbling as surely as his physical one. He has to contend with his ex-wife, Bette; his landlord, Joey, who wants to evict him; his daughter’s new-found boyfriend, Nash, the D.J. who destructively embodies coming times of mechanization and impersonality; even his moony helper, Toby.

Directed with both intensity and compassion by Kirsten Kelly, “Undeniable Sound” is blessed with a sextet of actors who could truly be denizens of Hank’s Bar. Circling around the fading light of a bygone era are the appealing Margo Seibert as his daughter, Lusia Strus as hard but tender Bette, Daniel Abeles as the cocky Nash, Brian Miskell as the nerdy Toby and Chris Kipiniak as the greedy Joey.

John McDermott’s set is wonderfully tacky, worn with age and cigarette smoke. You can practically smell the alcohol. Joel Moritz’s lighting, Sarah J. Holden’s costumes and Lindsay Jones’ sound design complete the picture of an establishment and a way of life in decline.

You don’t have to know anything about the club scene to appreciate Eason’s play. All you need is a willing ear and an ability to feel sorrow and pity for those swept along and discarded in the path of an evolving, erratic world.

--David A. Rosenberg
April 7, 2015

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