Monday, May 14, 2012


Life examined through the eyes of a cabbie at Blank Canvas

Blank Canvas, the area’s newest professional theatre, has done it again. Will Kern’s HELLCAB is the company’s third production. It’s another winner.

HELLCAB takes the audience on a seventy-minute ride through twenty-two different fares a Chicago cabbie has in a single day.

The story is a social and moral commentary on the lives of people as it probes religion, race, urban life, prejudice, normalcy and desperation. The cabbie endures a trio of druggies, a bragging wealthy man who has little regard for women, a numbed rape victim, a smug lawyer, a frustrated middle-aged woman, a couple of loud-mouthed New York Yankee fanatics who yell obscene comments at Chicago Cubs fans, a woman about to give birth, an architect, a potential robber, and a Pakistani. It’s all capped off by a touching final scene.

The entire show is staged on a turntable in the middle of Blank Canvas’s theatre-in-a-square stage on which is placed a replica of a yellow cab. As the play proceeds, the auto turns so the audience gets to see the scenes from various viewpoints. The small size of the theatre, in which no one is more than four rows away from the action, adds to the intimacy and realism.

Mark Moritz’s directing is right on course. The scenes are well paced and flows nicely. The six actors who play over 25 different roles switch and hold their characters well. The use of costume and wig changes, as well as vocal variations and pronunciations, help create the various people.

The star of the show is the talented Patrick Ciamacco who never leaves the stage throughout the production. Ciamacco textures the role of the cabbie with emotions that range from being tired, to irritation, to rage, to fear, to empathy. His mobile face changes from blank stares to grimaces, rolling eyes, disgust, and fear, with purposeful ease. What makes his performance even more impressive is that Ciamacco stepped into the role less than 24 hours before opening night.

The rest of the cast, Sonya Barnes, Kenneth Bryant, Joe Dunn, Doug Kusak, Katie Nabors and Carla Petroski, are all excellent. There is not a weak link in the acting chain.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: HELLCAB is a thought provoking, sometimes humorous glimpse into life in a big city which exposes the foibles and lives of people who use a cab as their means of transportation. It’s na evening of impressive performances and well worth seeing.