Pahl’ Pen

Some Thoughts about ‘Sunday on the Rocks’

by Richard Pahl

Sunday morning. Three women/friends/housemates are home alone while the fourth more judgmental, more controlling roommate is out for a Sunday drive with her longtime beau. One of them has a confession to make and offers up a bottle of Scotch for the occasion.

That is the compelling opening to Janus Theatre's “Sunday On the Rocks” now playing at the Elgin Arts Showcase.

More confessions ensue along with female bonding and girl talk of the most serious kind. The three expound upon a wide range of topics—morality and promiscuity, political boycotts and income disparity, abortion and surrogacy, machismo, therapy, Hitler, mothers, the human connection and the nature of love. It is all extremely personal.

These three thirty-somethings are feeling unfocused and want to get on with their lives. They have been coexisting not so peacefully with the fourth roommate in an extremely affordable residence and are afraid to move out and take on additional financial responsibilities.

Heidi Swarthout as Elly is at a crossroads in her relationship with her longtime boyfriend. Jennifer Reeves-Wilson as Jen seems to feel some ambivalence about a longtime male friend who won't stop calling her. Tiffany Jasinski as Gayle appears to be stuck in the middle between these two and the fourth roommate.

The three of them describe Jessica (Allison Sword) in such detail that the audience feels that they know her long before her entrance at the end of Act I. But she doesn't seem so awful as she was described. Until she does.

This company of powerful actors is every bit as accomplished as you will find on any Chicago stage. These characters truly connect with one another. Their intimate behavior suggests longstanding friendships with good humor and shorthand and rapid fire dialogue. The intimate staging in the round allows the audience to feel as if they are just hanging around the house with these troubled, fascinating personalities. This is dynamic, edgy acting at its finest skilfully fine tuned by Director Tara Morrison. There is never a false note, never an actory moment.

The play culminates in a thrillingly violent, not-to-be-missed sequence. Although “Sunday On the Rocks” was written in the 1990s, it is still astonishingly relevant today with its discussion and illustration of victim blaming. It clearly illustrates the great divide between women in this country. Some go to great lengths to defend men's bad behavior while others believe that violence is never a mistake.

“Sunday on the Rocks” was written by the prolific American playwright Theresa Rebeck. Her current Broadway play is “Bernhardt/Hamlet.” “Downstairs,” starring Tim Daly and Tyne Daly, will have its New York premiere next month. Rebeck may be best known for her television work. She created the NBC show biz drama “Smash” and has written for “NYPD Blue” and many others.

“Sunday On the Rocks” is the third installment in Janus Theatre's ambitious repertory, Underplayed: The Margo Jones Theater Project. It will continue through November 3, 2018 at the Elgin Arts Showcase.