North Avenue Productions
3231 N. Clark St., Chicago
$10 (Double feature with "Hot Fudge," a companion piece, $15)
7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 8.
Note: Theater is in the basement with no handicapped access.
By BEVERLY FRIEND
If ever a play owed everything to its cast, it is this one.
"Ice Cream," premiering in a dingy basement room -- under the
rather drab, though tasty, vegetarian restaurant, Cafe Voltaire --
has no ambiance, no scenery, no props except for a few chairs, and
a plot line with more than a few holes. Yet the play virtually
springs to life via the excellence of the actors. If they are this
good performing in a virtual dungeon, it would be wonderful to see
what they could accomplish above ground in a better and more
The slim plot follows two couples. Americans Vera (Sandy Borglum)
and Lance (David Tatosian) travel to England to research family
history -- and errant relatives. There they meet Lance's third
cousins, siblings Phil (Harvey Fries) and Jaq (Jennifer Weigel),
and participate in hiding a murder. Later, the unexpected and
unwelcome British cousins return their visit by coming to the
This bare outline doesn't do justice to the range of scenes and
Borglum, in a multitude of episodes and moods, never hits a false
note -- companionable and understanding as the wife of a would-be
historian, flustered yet seductive in her affair with "Cousin"
Phil, guilt-stricken on a psychiatrist's couch. Verbose and
cliche-ridden, but charming throughout, she is a continual source
The seduction scene is especially clever, with Borglum wavering
between desire and conscience, evading and succumbing alike with
her string of dialogue, as she makes statements and then clarifies
and refines them: admitting that her words are filed with cliches
and then defining these cliches as essential to experience. It is
a virtuoso performance.
Fries is also fascinating, more for his facial expression and
posture than for his language. Most effective are his glaring blue
eyes that focus with equal penetration whether displaying lust for
his cousin's wife or hostility towards the enemy he ultimately
murders. Tatosian as Lance and Weigel as Jaq are perfect foils for
their partners, hitting just the right pitches of regret and
Whose story is being told? Both the point-of-view and the emphasis
change as the characters continually shift, weaving into different
combinations at a breathtaking pace. Some scenes last fewer than
five minutes, but each furthers the story: moving the setting from
airplane, to automobile, to family homestead in Devon, to murder
scene, to forest, back to airplane, to psychiatrist's office, to
dance hall, to stolen automobile, to hitchhiker's home, and on and
on, separated by blackouts and rearrangement of the four chairs.
Author Caryl Churchill and Director Frank Farrell deserve much
credit for keeping and maintaining suspense with surprise plot
twists and unexpected moments -- such as when the cast breaks into
the "Macarena" during a dance-hall scene.
Jerry Rossetti as the murder victim, psychiatrist and professor
provides a wonderful satiric link between these three characters.
Gloria Dexter, who also skillfully plays three roles, is a
successful catalyst for the surprise ending.
This "Ice Cream" being served at Cafe Voltaire is truly a
wonderful dessert, proving once again that biting into offbeat
theater in the Chicago area is both a rewarding and a nourishing