Dark Play Opens Up People’s Deep Problems in a Funny Way
How Does That Make You Feel is a dark comedy that will have you laughing your head off at people who want to end their lives.
The play running this weekend at Stage 773 on Belmont centers on one evening when a therapist is visited by a handful of his patients who plan to throw a big raging party like it’s their last night on earth because at the end of the night they want to take their lives. The therapist tries to juggle sitting down for one final session with each of his patients to convince them not to do it while also dealing with his own personal demons.
“Antics and shenanigans ensue as the play bounces between drama and farcical absurdity.”
The acting is suburb – each character playing their roles as tormented souls ready to party and then end it all. But the one who takes the cake is Rusty (played by Vic Kuligoski) with crazy antics, twirling like a ballet performer as he rifles out absurd thoughts before firing his pistol. The price of admission is worth it just to see this crazy dude perform!
The playwright and producer Brandon Prosek wrote that this play helped him cope with his grandmother’s passing and the recent election. His plan was to break down therapy, depression and suicide to force an open conversation so help rather than shame results.
How Does it Make You Feel will run this weekend August 17 – 20th (Fri. 8pm, Sat. 7:30pm/10:30pm, Sun. 3pm) at Stage 773 – 1225 W. Belmont (Belmont Red Line), Tickets $13 – $15.
Prosek spoke with Chicago News about his play.
Chicago News: Could you tell us about your background?
Brandon Prosek: I was born and raised in the west Chicago suburb Geneva about an hour from the city. I went to Columbia College Chicago and graduated with a BA in Film/Video with a Minor in Television Writing. During my time there I studied mostly writing, directing and producing. Over the years I’ve made well over 200 videos on YouTube ranging from sketches, web shows, short films, review shows, a podcast and such, all under Entertainment Buffet. In my spare time I’ve also written television pilots, feature films and am also currently co-writing a comic book we hope to publish later this year. I also dabble in stand-up comedy whenever I have time between these projects.
CN: Can you explain how you got the idea to make this play about a suicide party?
BP: Well, how I got the idea was actually kind of silly. I was looking for a feature film idea I could write that took over the course of one evening in one location with an ensemble of characters that could be a dark comedy. I thought about when I saw someone post on social media a joke movie theater marquee where someone accidentally switched the movie titles Suicide Squad and Sausage Party so the two by mistake said, “Sausage Squad” and “Suicide Party.” When I saw the latter, I asked myself, “a suicide party? What would that look like?” And I started coming up with characters. Before I knew it, it was about two weeks later and I wrote a 120-page first draft.
CN: What are the messages or theme you want to highlight in this play?
BP: After the story and the characters started coming together, I knew the subject would be controversial, but I wanted to try to break down stigmas that arise when people talk about therapy, depression, suicide and topics such as those. By sprinkling dark comedy in between the drama, I felt it could allow the audience to really think about those things instead of how our society likes to tip-toe around them like they are non-issues. In a perfect world I would love for future generations to treat mental health just like when we go to the doctor for the flu. No one should be ashamed for seeing a therapist, a psychiatrist or wanting to get any sort of help for these feelings.
CN: Why should people see this play?
BP: I’ve been seeing a lot of work lately that the writers/directors feel the need to only tell a drama or only tell a comedy, which is completely fine. However, I wanted to tell one that bounced between the two. I believe this play will make people think about some of the dramatic elements between these characters, but also make them laugh at their antics and shenanigans. It may be a controversial topic, but I personally believe these issues are some of the biggest we are not attacking in this country. We should be healing ourselves here at home.
CN: Have you written any plays before?
BP: This is actually my first time ever writing a play. I realized when I was tossing around ideas of a feature film taking place over one evening potentially in a therapist’s office that this could work for another medium. My writing style is very dialogue heavy, and with it taking place in one location, I realized this type of writing makes more sense for a play production. I’ve always loved pushing myself to try new mediums and I thought this would be a challenge to make myself a better writer.
CN: What are your future plans?
BP: That’s a big question that I’ve been thinking about as this production is wrapping up. This play has been something I’ve been working on for nearly a year and so far feels like the best thing I’ve ever written. I’m considering taking on another play or take some time to tackle a smaller-scale project such as a short film idea I have with time travel, a live sketch show or perhaps telling a variety of one-act shorter plays. Until I figure that out, you can find more of my work at Entertainment Buffet such as my podcast, eventual comic book and more. Hopefully this was the first of many plays I’ll be creating in Chicago. Maybe I’ll try producing this show again with a new director and cast. Never know!
CN: Please add any additional information for our readers.
BP: I encourage all of the readers to see this play not for me, but for the cast and crew who put in so much work for very little money on this play. They are all incredibly talented and kind people and deserve to be rewarded for their efforts. Also, a percentage of the ticket sales will be donated to charities geared towards Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, so even if you don’t like the show, some of the money will be going to great causes.