Sam Mueller’s Laced lives in the shadow of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, but it is rooted in a club that preceded Pulse by several generations: Stonewall. Through Mueller’s monologue-dependent script, About Face Theatre creates a contemporary story that also gives voice to the history that helped forge it. In director Lexi Saunders’s raw, emotive production, Audra (Mariah Copeland), Minnow (Daniela Martinez), and Cat (Collin Quinn Rice) work at Maggie’s, a Florida nightclub that’s a celebrated safe space for its queer clientele. The story unfolds in the wake of the June 12, 2016, shootings at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, where 49 people were killed and another 53 injured in the second-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. (The first is the 2017 Las Vegas Mandalay Bay massacre.)
Through 4/17: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM; Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee, 773-697-3830, aboutfacetheatre.com, $5-$35.
After Maggie’s is vandalized—scrawls of hate speech sprayed on the walls, broken glass and debris littering the floor—the tight-knit trio recalls the previous night’s revelries in minute detail, hoping they’ll remember something that could shed light on who vandalized their club.
The pacing in Mueller’s script slows when it needn’t, thanks to a few unnecessarily repetitive silent scenes that punctuate the flashbacks. But the sense of sacred community that defines Maggie’s is never in doubt, from a midnight crush that has the bartenders moving in tandem like a single, efficient organism to the salute to Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (each given the ultimate reverence in that they’re mentioned only by first name, the assumption being these women are as familiar to everyone as Cher or Jesus).
The structure allows each character to reflect in depth on their own personal terrors and triumphs, making Laced feel like a confessional. There’s not a lot of plot here, but Saunders’s earnest cast captures raw vulnerability and exhausted, angry resilience in equal measure.