Geek love at Theater Wit

Most romantic heroines don't work with yeast cultures. Most heroes do not win their loves by teasing them with the possibility of a really hot data-mining algorithm. But geeks deserve romantic happiness just as much as the rest of us — all right, the rest of you. And for people who spent entirely too much time in graduate school, Itamar Moses' very enjoyable new play "Completeness" might just be the only tolerable kind of rom-com: one that celebrates the seductive power of smarts.

And, to its credit, the nefarious morality of graduate students, a breed famously able to talk its way out of every lack of commitment and make every lover being dumped feel like they were the cause of their own elimination.

"Completeness" has a lot to enjoy, and some talky pretension that gets a bit much, but it offers a particularly thorough depiction of the self- justifying speech, a nattering on about work, focus and distraction when the real truth is that someone else has caught the eye. And if you detect a note of personal bitterness there, you'd be right.

Every theater needs a brand in a city with a couple of hundred of them. And Theater Wit — the producing arm of the rental venue of the same name on Belmont Avenue — has long enjoyed a kind of sub-specialty in theater for nerds. Date nights for dweebs, of which this offering surely is a doozy.

At Theater Wit, there long has been a love of sexy plays about math, comedies probing the meeting point of romance and logic, and, in this most recent case, a play that ponders whether a computer scientist can submit himself to biological imperatives (yeast cultures, you might say) long enough to bed a cute biologist, not to mention whether the cute biologist in question can apply enough mathematical logic to make the relationship functional, in the binary sense.

In essence, the play is a love quartet. Elliott (the deceptively fresh-faced Matt Holzfeind) dumps the undergraduate Lauren (Rae Gray, who is appropriately maudlin throughout) for the biologist Molly (Kristina Valada-Viars) who first has to extricate herself from an affair with her faculty advisor Don (Andrew Jessop). All of that you buy perfectly well, at least until the play jumps the shark in Act 2 when other, unnecessary characters start appearing and the basic rules of engagement change one too many times. Moses knows these kinds of characters well and his play is on the best footing when it stays with a core couple — both empathetic and annoying under Jeremy Wechsler's direction. Valada-Viars and Holzfeind make quite the sexy couple and the piece has some rather beguiling sensuality stuck among the terminals and lesson plans, which heats up the action quite nicely and gives you a break from all the talk.

Wechsler's production struggles in the Act 2, alongside the play's metadramatic stutters, which hurt the pace. But Valada-Viars is so relentlessly intense, she single-handedly holds your interest. The show also has the benefit of a very zesty high-tech set from Joe Schermoly that represents the hearts of the geeks with a series of graphic images on the walls of their studies/boudoirs. It's a clever way to look at a couple who cannot separate their personal lives from their research. And, these days, who can?


When: Through March 24

Where: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave.

Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Tickets: $18-$36 at 773-975-8150 or

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    As a founding member of the Grateful Dead, Bill Kreutzmann watched the world change from behind his drum kit, shoveling coal in the wildly tribal rhythm section as the Dead went from San Francisco underground curio to ground-breaking indie outfit, then progenitor of the improvisation-based rock...

  • Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    The three clichés that color every good rock star story is “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll." For the Grateful Dead, the trailblazing rock band known for its improvisational style, revelatory live shows and dedicated fanbase, there was that and so much more.

  • 10 best movies of 2015 so far

    10 best movies of 2015 so far

    The year’s half-over! How did that happen? No idea. With six months of a good year of movies in the books, let’s see how the Top 10 list is looking, with a quote from each respective review. Note: There are a few I’ve seen that I really like that haven’t yet opened in Chicago, and those aren’t...

  • If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    Nearly 5 million more Americans would qualify for overtime pay under new rules proposed Tuesday by the Obama administration, a long-anticipated move expected to affect a broad swath of salaried employees from store managers to social workers to restaurant shift supervisors.

  • Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Unlike previous summers, UniStaff is experiencing a spike in job applicants at its Little Village location, a trend the branch manager says is tied to the city's minimum wage increase to $10 per hour beginning Wednesday.

  • 'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    Welcome to RedEye’s coverage of “The Bachelorette,” arguably the most misogynistic show on television! The format is pretty simple: Five women of RedEye each drafted five of the 25 competing men. Everyone gets one point for every man who gets through each week. If you ever want your daughter to...