Next to the Berwyn Red Line Stop sits the Steep Theatre (1115 W. Berwyn Ave.) with an ensemble that has received many accolades for its extraordinary productions over the years. This season, the ensemble members continue to prove their talents with the incredible production “Bobbie Clearly.” It’s playwright Alex Lubischer’s genius exploration of grief and forgiveness with a perfect mix of drama and comedy. The atmosphere of the theatre creates a unique environment that director Josh Sobel uses to bring the audience right into the action.
In Milton, Nebraska, residents never expected such a devastating tragedy. The town is mourning the death of 16-year-old Casey G. Welch, while 15-year-old Bobbie is in an institution upstate, charged Casey’s murder. The grieving town, under the guidance Casey’s mother, Mrs. Welch, holds a talent show in Casey’s honor. Lubischer tells this story by presenting testimonials from Milton residents and tying them into a three-part documentary that spans many years.
The documentary revisits characters eight years later — after Bobbie’s release from the institution — and concludes with a surprising but realistic ending. Near the end of the show, male nurse Derek/Drake (Nick Horst) screams that certain tragedies and hardships could be avoided if we were all just “kind to folks” — the primary message of the play.
The darker themes are offset by well-timed comic relief. The cast embodies funny, outlandish characters that each have their own distinct personalities. The comedy includes three dance numbers, which are set to the music of Christina Aguilera, The Killers and Queen, and each is funnier than the last. Two of the numbers are presented as acts in a talent show and one is delivered as a drunken karaoke performance. This element creates a comedic drama that will make you cry and laugh until you cry.
The stage design is simplistic: Only a small piano sits on an otherwise bare stage. The major scenes occur at the Casey G. Welch Annual Talent Show, transforming audiences of “Bobbie Clearly” into the audience of this small town performance. The other scenes are differentiated by changing background noises that transport viewers to new locations. Thomas Dixon’s sound design and original music change the minimalistic stage into many dynamic settings.
“Bobbie Clearly” paints a beautiful picture of complex tragedy while examining the concept of forgiveness and exploring how healing is a constant struggle. The show’s blend of clever acting, brilliant writing and ingenious directing make this masterpiece a must-see for any theatre lover.
“Bobbie Clearly” runs through Nov. 5, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday matinees start at 3 p.m. on Oct. 9, 16, 22 and 30. Tickets range from $10 to $35. Reservations can be made by calling (773) 649-3186 or visiting www.steeptheatre.com.