Review: “The Four” (Strawdog Theatre Company)

One of my favorite offerings “lost” during Covid-19 quarantine are the low-key artist gatherings (usually pre-or post show) that have been a Strawdog specialty over the years. Linger around after the curtain goes down, and you could be treated to a reading of Twitter penned short plays, or (my favorite) a special skills night where actors perform the least often called-upon skills on their resumes. “The Four” feels less like a full-fledged production, but more like a Strawdog community check-in. There has been so much change in the past year (not only during quarantine, but due to changing performance spaces and the naming of a new artistic director), this live broadcast is a welcome, and literal, fireside chat.

Interim artistic director Kamille Dawkins revisits the founding principles that have guided each Strawdog production since the company’s inception in poetry, live, next to a backyard fire pit. Ensemble members Scott Danielson, Becca Levy, Michael Reyes and Dawkins herself deliver an ode to their long-standing company, with all the affection you’d reserve for a frail, sometimes slow-moving senior canine. The troupe then opens up the forum to their live audience, asking viewers what pillars, besides their original four (genuine connection, challenge, community, ensemble), are tugging at our consciences and drawing our focus today. In ritual burning, those ideas that viewers want to uphold or abandon, abhor or emulate all get a brief moment to be held, then thrown into the licking flames; from nothing to nothing. 

This brief ritual might not lodge deep in the hearts of anyone outside of Strawdog’s intended circle of ensemble members and avid supporters, but if this theater has impacted your Chicago theater experience, it will feel like a welcome embrace. 

DICE RATING: d10 –– “Worth Going To

TEN WORD SUMMARY: Strawdog teases an entirely virtual season and leadership shake-up.

Show: “The Four”

Company: Strawdog Theatre Company

Venue: Virtual (Broadcast on Facebook Live)