We started subscribing to the House Theatre of Chicago last year, with some trepidation. There is so much great theater around town that it seems limiting to commit to a particular troupe, and we travel so much that there is a real concern about whether we can make every show. On the other hand, House subscriptions are about as cheap as they could be, and go to support some of our favorite Chicago artists and performers.
This season's inaugural show is Thieves Like Us, based on a 1930s-era novel by Richard Anderson and adapted by local playwright Damon Kiely. Like most House Theatre shows, it features creative scene-setting and staging; for example, when main characters hop into their (invisible) getaway car, other cast members parade along the stage holding up newsprint drawings of the scenery the automobile passes on its journey.
Imaginative touches like these, and an enigmatic (and magnetic) torch singer who appears and disappears, like a phantom of protagonist Bowie Bowers' mind, elevate the show beyond its pulpy, noir material (nice guy falls in with the wrong crowd, gets in trouble, lands in jail, gets in more trouble, falls in love with nice girl, tries to get out of trouble, fails). So do an array of fine performances from the cast who are--as typical at the House--terrifically energetic.
In spite of a sad ending, it's an invigorating show.