Play: Room at the Inn

Group: First Run Theatre

Venue: Hunter Theater, DeSmet High School, 233 N. New Ballas

Dates: Jan. 19,20

Tickets: From $8 to $12; 352-5114 or

Story: It’s Christmas Eve and somewhere in greater Chicago two volunteers are busily preparing the basement of St. Peter United Christian Church Fellowship Hall for the arrival of 41guests, homeless people being transported to the shelter via bus in a blinding snowstorm. There’s no food, as the lady bringing six trays of lasagna to feed them has ended up in a ditch after veering off an icy road. To further complicate matters a woman, her young son named Clark Kent and a brooding young man who is not the boy’s father arrive by car, bringing the additional menace of the man’s violent jealousy. How will everyone get through the night?

Highlights: First Run has mounted a decent production of an interesting script by playwright Steve Pokin. The writer shows a solid ability to present these homeless characters as mostly dignified people who have ended up on the wrong side of fortune. While their material possessions are scarce, they nonetheless represent a spectrum of humanity, some good, some nasty but all struggling to survive and help out as best they can.

The entire company is represented by a dozen actors. Under Phillip Bozich’s overly gentle direction, they are left to their own devices, which leads to mixed results. Thus, fine actors such as Ben Ritchie, Tom Bell and Nicole Angeli demonstrate how to effectively mine even small parts with subtle mannerisms such as a stilted shuffle (Bell), a wealth of silent expressions and gesticulations (Angeli) or a clever bit with a hand puppet (Ritchie).

Other Info: Room at the Inn is nicely told and has some serious potential, but this production suffers from often dreadful pacing and several performances that need to move beyond melodrama into more realistic portrayals.

Rating: A 2.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.