Brikenbrak Theatre Project’s ‘The Samaritan Syndrome’ offers intriguing post-show discussion

Last night I hopped on the Blue Line to that nebulous land called “Bucktown” to catch a newbie theatre company’s inaugural production at the Gorilla Tango.

Brikenbrak Theatre Project, founded by Paul Cosca, seeks to “engage your brain in a vital and visceral way.” At least, that’s what the program says. A noble concept, but, just like that land of Bucktown, a nebulous one. Doesn’t all good theatre aim to do that?

It’s always interesting to see what new theatre companies present as their first works. It says a lot about their future direction and what they want to add to Chicago’s booming storefront theatre scene. So, Jeremy Menekseoglu’s The Samaritan Syndrome had a lot going for it. How will it engage my brain with vitality?

Well, the play certainly is a head-scratcher.

You see, there’s this guy, Mr. Suit, who wants to save this girl. You’re not sure why, but he’s determined. However, she’s locked away deep in the women’s ward of an insane asylum, and the only way Mr. Suit can get to her is through the night nurse — a steely broad who won’t tell Mr. Suit where his girl is, but she’ll let him keep trying if he simply pays the fee. With each credit card transaction, Mr. Suit encounters a deeply damaged women who he could save, but rather leaves in devastation in search of his girl. Without ruining anything, Mr. Suit abruptly learns that heroism doesn’t always pay.

It’s gritty, dark stuff. Themes of victimization, heroism, abuse, co-dependency, power and corruption are explored — and most likely more. I can’t say I necessarily liked the play — it’s more of a 45-minute conversation piece rather than engrossing drama — but it makes you think. The acting is fine, if a bit on the safe side given the nature of the material, and Cosca’s direction uses the Tango’s space well. Music by David Roseberry played up the creepy nicely.

The post-show discussion forum, led by Cosca and the cast, was engaging. Discussions about the origin of the play and why it was chosen helped paint a better picture.

So, I would say this play met this budding theatre company’s goal, even if that goal is a bit broad. I look forward to seeing this group grow — they certainly are ambitious.

I would, however, suggest that Cosca find a different space for the next show (another piece by Menekseoglu called Allegator). While the Gorilla Tango is ideal for comedy and improv, it’s not suitable for drama. Last night a bongo drum banged away next door, a back door opened and closed constantly, and the AC unit overpowered the actors. Distracting.

“The Samaritan Syndrome” has two more shows on 5/18 and 5/25 at the Gorilla Tango. More information here >

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