This weekend local author Bruce Calhoun is remounting his play Diamond Girl at the Bartell Theatre, as a benefit for rainforest conservation. But with a convoluted plot, painfully predictable dialogue, Scooby-Doo special effects and tortured references to ancient Greek classics, if you really care about the rainforest, perhaps you should skip the play and send your contributions directly to a Sumatran rhino.
Diamond Girl focuses on a young woman whose life seems to be falling apart. Rita Chase (Simone LaPierre) has dropped out of grad school and now works in a swanky jewelry store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Her travel agent boyfriend (Ethan Richard) has just dumped her and her evil stepsister Iphigenia (Gina Gomez) is kicking her out of the house because Daddy promised it to her as soon as she began to procreate. Newly pregnant, heartless sis arrives promptly to take over the lease. Meanwhile, disapproving stepfather and Euripides scholar Eliot Hunt (Joe Lutz) has no time for his poor stepdaughter’s problems. He is taking his sycophant grad student Hayworth Sardeson (Drew Lehman) on a quest to find the lost plays of the ancient Greeks. And to let us know what serious scholars these two academics are, an entire scene is devoted to aggressively pedantic bickering about theater history and criticism which neither informs the audience about these characters nor moves the plot forward. It seems to be a long winded in-joke for Dionysus festival nerds.
Then Rita puts on a $2 million diamond necklace, and all the boys come swarming around her. What luck! The only complication is that now the diamond choker won’t come off, no matter what the enterprising jewelry store staff tries. It takes the characters an entire act to figure out that perhaps the necklace is enchanted, while the audience is alerted to its otherworldly power almost immediately. Swirly music plays and lights flicker, cued by the forlorn heroine making a wish to finally find the right guy, while leaning on the case where the mysterious Bohemian necklace is displayed. And sure enough, after a lot of fairytale-esque attempts by suitors to remove the enchanted bauble, Prince Charming succeeds — and it turns out the “right guy” was under her nose the whole time! Aw. . .
In between Rita’s attempts to catch the perfect man, there are several dream sequences set in Ancient Greece which also don’t move the story forward, or really connect with the archeological dig that Professor Hunt is on — an expedition that is successful after a whopping two days, although other scholars have been searching for these lost texts for hundreds of years.
With names like Hunt and Chase, Roland Royce, Kitty Hawke and Andrew Vanderfellow, the author seems to writing a tongue-in-cheek murder mystery, but the show is neither funny, nor all that mysterious. Pairing all of the contemporary characters with icons of Greek mythology, one might guess this was an update of an ancient myth, but unless Helen of Troy’s face launched all those ships thanks to a sparkly choker, there aren’t enough dots to connect that theory either.
There are plenty of red herrings and bizarre non-sequitors in the 2 ½ hour play, including:
· An amethyst geode from Rita’s real father that is mentioned twice but leads nowhere.
· Rita’s hope that remaining a virgin until marriage will win the love of her stepfather. (?)
· The assertion that the best place to find true love is Second City in Chicago, because a sense of humor is important.
· The axiom that one should always steer clear of “Bohemian” jewelers, although it’s not specified whether that refers to a nationality or a lifestyle.
· The clever tactic of claiming you are suddenly gay to get rid of unwanted beaux.
· Presenting the Greek playwright Euripides with a British accent and a large feather quill pen.
The cast struggles through the mish-mashed script with varying levels of success. Ethan Richard and Britton Rae come closest to presenting three-dimensional characters, but to no good end. They simply dance along to the interstitial music from the 1940s, in this story set in 2017, with inexplicable detours to ancient Athens.