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Steve Haggard and McKenzie Chinn in SENDER. Photo by Michael Brosilow

A Red Orchid delivers SENDER on a hot summer plate of Chicago-hipster-rooftop-realness strewn with beer cans and honesty, lost in its desire to reject the mainstream banality while searching for its own definition, complicated with love, hope, responsibilities and impulsive 4th of July knee knocking; and so it is no wonder, Ike Holter’s modern day bohemians warn you before you step any closer: “Things are weird in here.”

All it takes is an opening moment of breathtaking intensity to launch this production into a hyper-realistic portrayal of the complex relationships between four friends in a unique set of circumstances. Lynx (an effortlessly playful Steve Haggard) is one of those people that can make you feel like the sun chose to shine solely on you when he cloaks you in his attention. Everybody worships Lynx, but none like his fiery lover Tess (sharp and funny with a hint of wild, Mary Williamson) and his adoring friend Jordan (a performance by Steven Wilson, who channels his character so well, you could swear you just gave that guy the side eye at Whole Foods). Bring in Jordan’s pregnant wife Cassandra (a beautifully authentic McKenzie Chinn) to level out the playing field before everyone runs off into a future of magical polyamorous bliss and before you know it, you are deeply sucked into their reality. Suddenly, you understand how the human condition transcends all factors; how no matter what culture you identify with or avoid or condemn, in the end, we are just lonely creatures looking for a place to belong.

Congratulations to Director Shade Murray and this skilled cast for finding the unpredictable joy, the oft-ignored ugliness and the vulnerable truths in Mr. Holter’s World Premiere. Mike Durst’s set perfectly uses the intimate space for maximum impact of delivering the whole lot of unapologetic raw emotions. If you ever saw theater and didn’t find it believable, seeing SENDER will reinstate your faith in realism. And before long, you can resonate with any of the perfectly flawed strange humans, and you realize you speak fluent weirdness after all.

April 25th, 2016

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