by M.E.H. Lewis & Barbara Lhota / directed by Rachel Edwards Harvith / world premiere with Babes with Blades, 2016

Selected by Theatre By Numbers' Sarah Bowden as the #3 Chicago show of 2016

"Full of romance and heartbreak, justice denied and shadowy threats, M.E.H Lewis and Barbara Lhota’s 180 Degree Rule is a marvelous neo-noir. In a rare feat of theater making they, along with director Rachel Edwards Harvith and film director Carter Martin, have interlaced the live action with cuts of film recreated by the cast and projected across that back wall. Along with varied establishing shots, wipes of cigarette smoke, powerful images of characters illuminated in menacing positions, and a disturbingly accurate portrayal of the fatal fire, the film aspect is used to gild rather than distract from the live action.

Not that the live action needs any help standing out. 'This is a murder mystery, but it’s also a memory play.' Harvith says, 'It involves characters reaching across time to find each other. Memory plays tricks on us.' The fluid nature of the story, scenes have a way of recurring in entirely new light, and the liberal sprinkling of violence (this is after Babes with Blades Theater Company, after all, heads are going to get smashed) keep us on our toes, and, as in the best of scripts, every detail is there for a reason.

... The 180 degree rule referenced in the title refers to an old rule of film making regarding spacial relationships; always keeping two bodies in frame during conversation. In her films, Bennett broke that rule again and again, and in her death and those she touched she keeps “crossing the line” reaching back to rearrange things so that each perspective brings a little bit more to the whole. It’s a radiant love story, a chilling tragedy and a puzzle that gets the blood pumping and the heart thirsty for justice. Lewis and Lhota perhaps did not mean to follow in wake of Citizen Kane but nonetheless they have created, a superb evening of theater, that takes the tools of a genre and outstrips anything that’s been done with it before. The bones are all there, clean and articulated: the mysterious figure, a dangerous world, memories mingled like ink in water, one woman striving for the truth, and another stilled a frozen fastness, still burning. 180 Degree Rule knits it all together and brings it to life." - Ben Kemper, Chicago Theatre & Concert Reviews


stage manager: Adam Greye / violence design: Libby Beyreis / film director & editor: Carter Martin / director of photography: Tim Tavano / projection and scenic design: G. Max Maxin IV / lighting design: Laura J. Wiley / costume design: Beth Laske-Miller / sound design: Leigh Barrett / props design: Kurt Brandt / dialect coach: Jason A. Fleece / dramaturg: Heather Meyers

starring Kate Black-Spence as Katie Dunham / Tommy Bullington as George Berlitz & ensemble / Chris Cinereski as Francis Montgomery & ensemble / Amy E. Harmon as Ruth Alice Bennett / Lisa Herceg as Margot Faber / Kimberly Logan as Hedwige Sourile / Jason Andrew Narvy as Gilbert Bailey / Kelly Yacono as Aunt Henny & ensemble

photography by Johnny McKnight