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Critic’s Pick! ‘Trapped In A Box’ (Recommended)

Trapped 1.2 director Kimberly Faith Hickman.jpg

The box Audrey is trapped in is a theater box office, and she is the voice on the phone. Audrey’s calling is indeed the theater, but her goal is the stage itself, not selling tickets to the audience. I personally will never ever be rude on the phone again after listening to Audrey fend off idiots and their close cousins.

This funny exercise in frustration was written by Casey Pilkenton, who also plays Audrey and recorded all the various voices of those who call. Kimberly Faith Hickman directed. Pilkenton’s co-star is a patchwork stuffed animal who unblinkingly shares her dismays and fantasies and is, so far as I could see, of no discernible life form. Useful though, because Audrey is in desperate need of someone to talk to in addition to the obtuse callers to the box office and her own mother, whose personal bad day is recounted in detail on Audrey’s cell phone.

The trick to making what is essentially a monologue interesting is to keep the changes, the new events, coming — and Pilkenton does this well.

We really don’t expect her to give the Academy Award speech she’s already prepared, just in case, but we do get it, both barrels. A talent agent who unsuspectingly calls to reserve seats for a show instead gets an audition. Pilkenton is a practiced eye-roller and has an expressive face, all put to good use in Trapped in a Box.

The box office seems to belong to a comedy theater with multiple venues, reminiscent of Chicago’s Second City. This Chicago-based writer/performer “has been a company member with Chemically Imbalanced Comedy Theater and an employee at the Second City for the last five years.” Could she, perhaps, have done box office time at Second City? If so, she’s channeled an experience her character claims “sucks out my soul” to laugh-out-loud ends.

Hickman, director, has a solid Broadway background and has worked with Pilkenton before, directing her earlier play Ladies Night. The two seem to mesh neatly.

The bare bones theater that is Hanke 2 is quite enough for this unassuming production, which would be out of place in fancy surroundings. It’s good Fringe, which is to say something to laugh at, something to talk about, and maybe even something to think about. (See above, re: rudeness on phone.)

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