Chimera Ensemble opens second season with "Cam Baby"


Damien (r) responds to Clara's (back to camera) anger as Ezra (l), Natalie and Joseph

In your imagination, mix the concepts and actions of privacy, self-worth, identity and awkwardness, then throw in some webcam voyeurism and fast-paced comedy in a smallish black cube space with four "stage" entrances/exits. 

Experience it in Wicker Park! It is Cam Baby, Chimera Ensemble's second year opener by Canadian playwright Jessica Moss and directed by Jesse Roth in Collaboraction's studio space in the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave., through March 3. 


Clara and Tim are getting to know each other

In a rented three-bedroom Toronto apartment, two guys rig-up hidden webcams. Their plan is to record unsuspecting hot looking girls in the privacy of their bedroom.

Their new "tenant" Clara Mellin-Varley, believably portrayed by Nora Hunt, does not match up to their idea of beauty. They become worried that their entrepreneurial video efforts will not produce the fun and cash that they expected. 

In a fit of entrepreneurial verve, fast talking, strangely charming, Damien Matabang, played by Nico Fernandez, expends much energy to keep his fellow conspirator Joseph Blair, actor and Chimera Ensemble co-founder Murphy Mayer, from abandoning their "business." 


Joseph and Natalie spend some alone time

Mayer portrays morally challenged Joseph with such indecision that it is painful to watch the character's internal conflict. His indecision increases as a relationship develops with a second female "tenant," insecure but cute Natalie Irving, convincingly played by Norma Chacon. 

As the "star" of the videos, Clara, who had decided to put her life experiences in a blog with fake names, begins to experience having a boyfriend. 

Arif Yampolsky delivers the boyfriend role, Tim Pearson, magnificently. Not used to intimate relationships, Clara's and Tim's torturous, awkward interactions, evoke compassion and interest from the voyeuristic video audience. 

Clara and Natalie become confidants and a video fan arrives at the apartment as a new "tenant" named Ezra. Played by Christopher Donaldson as a simple man convinced that he would be better for Clara than Tim. 


Thinking that destroying his cell phone will be the answer to chaos, Joseph hammers as Damien and Natalie cheer him on

Deceptions begin to unravel. Clara finds out about the video…Natalie tattles on Clara…Tim is in disbelief...Damien and Joseph… you'll just have to buy a ticket and support a local new theatre group to find out how this muddle works out in 90-minutes, with no intermission. 

Jessica Moss, playwright, said about her work in a 2016 interview, "It’s a comedy about troubling dilemmas and asks a lot of questions. As a woman, if something terrible happens to you, what is your recourse? How much of our privacy do we give away in how we live today, and how easy is it to invade what’s left of that privacy? Do certain women matter more? How can we be friends with bad people? Are we the things that we do? 


Jessica Moss**

"I knew that the issue of a girl not looking the way women are 'supposed to look' (especially women that we put on stage and on screen), was going to be central. That’s a big part of my life, and something I struggle with as a human and an actor, and I don’t feel that it’s talked about often. This play ended up being, for me, very much a feminist statement, but I didn’t I start with that intention, beyond my feelings about prettiness or lack thereof, and my commitment to trying to write good female characters. 

"A big thing for me in this play was writing a part for a girl who doesn’t fit the beauty mold and who gets to be sexual and experience romance, but who is also still deeply flawed and makes mistakes and takes action. She is a perpetrator and an agent. I try to do that with all of my characters, but that’s something that’s often lacking in women’s roles, so it’s even more important that I double my efforts for them. 

What do you think it means to know someone in this digital age? How do you determine boundaries? 

*Founded in 2015, Chimera Ensemble is in residence at Collaboraction Studios as their second season is themed "Push, Pull, Tear."

Photo sources: Tori Howard; **Denise Grant



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