The Four Humor’s production company gave its second show, The Third Degrees of J. O. Breeze on the stage of the Hi Ho Lounge at 2239 St. Claude Avenue. This is a curious and well written play by Chicago playwright Beau O’Reilly. Mr. O’Reilly has a felicitous way with language, and this existentially tilted play is lush with wonderful phrases and imagery.
A seemingly desperate and spiritually lost man and a woman apply for a job and go through a brutal interview given by a troll-like creature in a sad sleazy little office setting. This trollish creature cleverly forces the man and woman, in separate interviews, to reveal sensitive and hurtful memories about their past relationships and their lives. They get the jobs and then sail off in a spaceship soon to become the new Adam and Eve of humanity whose destiny is to establish a new society on a distant planet. (Yes, I know it sounds really over the top, and it was; but the excellent performances and the vivid script kept us enthralled.)
Michael Martin played the crippled troll creature, the J. O. Breeze of the title, with a controlled agility and a well conceived idea of this strange role. He created a very
athletically demanding character who bounced from desk top to chair to stage floor with kinetic intensity. In those scenes in which just by sitting on his desk in the glow of a red light, wearing a frayed clown collar and ghastly makeup he established a remarkable and theatrically effective stage presence as he interviewed the job applicants. And when one considers how he managed to keep his legs folded against himself when he hopped around the stage, one cannot help but appreciate his awesome stage craft.
Joseph Dominick played the role of the troll’s assistant, The Captain. He did an excellent job. His job was to constantly type comments on an old manual typewriter as the troll
interviewed the man and woman. Mr. Dominick took this smaller but important role and made it bigger. Being a big broad shouldered man helped him in establishing the rough brutality of this biker-type character with a smooth well conceived technique especially in those moments when he rose up and threatened the man and woman into submission to reveal their secrets.
Keith Launey, once again, did a splendid job in his part, performing the role of Horace, the man being interviewed by the troll. Mr. Launey seems to be a natural actor and it’s a
pleasure watching him on stage as he deftly creates the character he imagines, and brings him to life so well. He makes it seem effortless.
Jennifer Growden played the role of Doris, the woman with a certitude of style and effort. She has a lovely stage voice and demonstrates a fine knowledge of the subtleties of performing demonstrated by her top notch job in this show.
The program gave the actors credit with the direction of this show, and if so it surprises me that it was done so consistently well on a small stage with very limited set pieces and lights. I guess miracles can happen on the stage when the actors are so good.