ex news 

Text of article from The Daily Herald newspaper
April 18, 2008  

Vexing theater
By Jack Helbig | Contributing writer

When you ask Rich Geiger, artistic director of Vex Theater, when he began working in theater, the co-founder of Palatine's newest (and only) non-Equity theater company will answer he has been "around the fringes of theater" his whole life.

His older brother, Kevin Geiger, was a prominent lighting designer in the off-Loop theater scene in the 1990s.

"I used to help him a lot," Geiger says, "He worked at Famous Door, Mary-Arrchie Theater Company. We did some Chicago Park District stuff. Then he became facilities manager at Harper College and I would help him set up there."

Geiger's brother died in 2001, but Geiger's interest in theater remained. But by then the native Chicagoan had moved out to Palatine "with the little woman." Eager to continue working in theater he looked around to find one where he could ply his trade.

"There are a lot of amateur theaters out here," Geiger said, "but they tend to do more musicals. Or they tend to do popular comedies. Not many of them do have Chicago-style theaters. Not many have small, intimate theaters. And not a lot of them do the kind of intimate theater, personal theater, we used to do at the Mary-Arrchie or Famous Door."

So Geiger decided to form a little theater group, Chicago style, along with Cathleen Ann and Michael Rios. They called it Vex Theatre because they liked the name.

"Also we joked a lot about it being a combination of violence and sex," Geiger said. "But really we like theater that makes you think, that vexes you a little. We like theater that makes you go out after and discuss it with other people. A good night of theater would be a vexation.

They incorporated in 2004.

"Our first production was Wallace Shawn's 'The Designated Mourner,' he said.

They followed up that with two plays by David Mamet, "American Buffalo" and "The Boston Marriage."

"Our biggest challenge is finding a space to do our work," Geiger said.

"Designated Mourner" was performed at the late, lamented Crossroads Theater in Naperville. The two Mamet plays were staged at Cutting Hall in Palatine.

Vex Theatre's current production, Oscar Wilde's comedy of manners, "Lady Windemere's Fan," directed by Geiger, opens tonight at the Elgin Art Showcase.

"It's a beautiful space," Geiger said. "It's a great size -- I think you can fit about a hundred seats in there tops --that kind of space just doesn't exist out here."

Geiger, Ann and Rios founded Vex to do works by playwrights considered too difficult or unpopular for community theaters: Mamet, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter. The witty, entertaining Wilde is something of a departure from these more serious writers.

"But it is a very good play," Geiger said. "It is vibrant and witty. Full of clever little sayings people throw back and forth. There is a lot of meat there behind the bon mots. Wilde has a very interesting take on morality, and how we view other people."

"Lady Windermere's Fan"

When: tonight through April 27.

Where: Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division St., eighth floor, Elgin

Tickets: at the door or visit vextheatre.org/windermere.html