The Altruists Two Lights Theater Company

Video - The Altruists

Recommended - "..toxic tale of four young narcissists practicing a 21st-century version of radical chic. ..exhilaratingly, hilariously vicious.. " -  Tony Adler, Chicago Reader 10/18/12

Highly Recommended - "...Two Lights is the new kid diving into the crowded pool of Chicago indie theater, and with its debut production of The Altruists, it makes one hell of a splash." - Chicago Theater Beat

"..charged, powerful production...  Audiences interested in a pleasant evening should not see this show.  But audiences interested in good theatre definitely must" -


Tickets - $25 & $15 (students, seniors)

10/6/12 - 11/4/12

Thu-Sat 730pm; Sun 3p

Recommended - The Altrusits, Tony Adler, Chicago Reader 10/18/12.  "Practically everybody associated with this Two Lights Theatre Company production went to the Theatre School at DePaul University, and it shows in their handling of Nicky Silver's 2000 black comedy. That's not a put-down. These are talented folks, seriously well trained. They have a precocious polish that reminds me of Roadworks, the ensemble of former Northwestern University students that made an off-Loop splash 20 years ago. Silver tells the toxic tale of four young narcissists practicing a 21st-century version of radical chic. When one of them does something really stupid, their true pathologies come out. Silver can lay it on too heavy, and he tries to maintain a mystery well beyond its usefulness. But he's also exhilaratingly, hilariously vicious. Directors Matt Olson and Ellen Chambers bring that out with considerable style. Aaron Kirby (who's not TTS) gives a gorgeous performance as a hustler whose life of pimps and dealers hasn't prepared him for real evil.".


Highly Recommended - - "Two Lights Theatre debuts its first season with its production of Nicky Silver’s The Altruists. The show’s title is a sarcastic commentary on the characters who are, in Silver’s words, “heartless people doing cruel things.” Most of the people in Silver’s biting comedy purport to be people of social conscience; in reality they are a plague of parasitic hypocrites who denounce the flaws in others but remain conveniently blind to their own shortcomings.

Ronald (Will Von Vogt) is a nebbish-y social worker who, while ostensibly trying to save the world, is really using his job to satisfy a savior complex and fulfill his need for validation. When Lance (Aaron Kirby), the man he brings home from a bar, turns out to be a prostitute, he is overjoyed (“I love a project!”) He declares his love for him and immediately begins planning a commitment ceremony. Never mind that Ronald’s “love” for Lance has little to do with Lance and much to do with Ronald’s own need to project his wish fulfillment on the right victim, or that Lance insists on behind paid; Ronald sees a beautiful future of rose-colored codependent rescuing.

Ronald’s sister Sydney (Bridget Schreiber), a pill-popping neurotic soap-opera star terrified of growing old and fat, chides Ronald on his delusional naïveté, and cynically assures him that Lance will rip him off. Of course, Sydney has taken into her own home — and bed — Ethan (Daniel McEvilly), a homeless, philandering social activist. During a brilliantly funny one-sided rant at the sleeping form in her bed, we discover that Sydney’s insecurity and attraction to Ethan have allowed her to become a doormat for him and his friends who, while denouncing her materialistic way of life, nevertheless show no compunction about using it to fund their own (and to furnish their apartments).

Cybil (Annie Prichard), in unrequited love with someone else, buries her loneliness in a lesbian relationship with Audrey, who is known only to us through descriptions of her jealous rages, freakish strength, and brutal retributions on the men with whom Cybil has slept. For Cybil, activism isn’t so much a calling as a hobby, and the drama more important than the causes. She’s less concerned with justice (“What’s the rally for this week? No, Chinese Human Rights was last month”) then the opportunity for angry theater. Her “lesbianism” is just one more clichéd accoutrement to her hilarious and carefully cultivated militant counter-culture persona (“I only know SEVEN black people; I need to know more. And not white black people; BLACK black people: sagging pants, gold teeth. Shoplifting black people.”) When it’s pointed out to her that she is way too promiscuous with men to really be a lesbian, she retorts, “I’m a lesbian POLITICALLY!”

Ethan believes himself an advanced soul, eschewing meat and materialism, but he’s really an opportunistic narcissist who uses women, excusing his behavior with a false nobility of being “honest” about the fact that he isn’t the commitment type (“I am what I am”). He sleeps with Sydney for access to her money and apartment, and he sleeps with Cybil behind Audrey’s back, but he truly connects with nobody.

Through direct addresses to the audience, we learn that with the exception of Lance, each character was brought up in a well-to-do household, furthering the revelation that their anger at injustice is one more contrivance, a self-justification for avoiding real work and truly purposeful lives. The irony is that the only character with principles is Lance, the strung-out prostitute played so effectively by Aaron Kirby. At first just a seemingly comedic addition, Lance goes from street-smart hustler to reveal the lonely young man starved for love that he truly is, and Kirby does a wonderful job keeping him real and winning us over.

All of these people would be too unsympathetic to hold our interest if Silver’s script were less clever, his dialogue less unselfconsciously true. The characters are self-involved and hypocritical, but they are also very, very funny. In the hands of lesser actors and direction, they could fall into cliché, but the uniformly excellent performances strike truth in every character, making each potential stereotype a real person.

Lest we be tempted to dismiss their behavior as the entertaining peccadilloes of silly, foolish people, however, Silver brings the show back down to earth: Sydney has committed a felony, and faces a life in prison if caught. Ethan and co. realize that they need to keep Sydney out of prison, not because they care about her (they don’t), but because her conviction would mean the end of the gravy train. It is here that these hitherto laughable characters commit an act that is so unforgivably base that we see them for the truly ugly, irredeemable people that they are.

Matt Olson’s set is simple: the stage is divided visually into three sections, each marked by a bed and assigned subtle color codes. Using a combination of perfectly timed lighting, sound, and action, we move from blackout to blackout in a well-choreographed tempo that perfectly paces the show.

Two Lights is the new kid diving into the crowded pool of Chicago indie theater, and with its debut production of The Altruists, it makes one hell of a splash. I look forward to more great things from this very talented group".


The Altrusists - Alex Huntsberger, - "If you want to see true acts of altruism (that is, goodness for goodness' sake) then Nicky Silver's "The Altruists"  is not for you. If you want to see acts of cowardice, selfishness, depravity and fear that are all undertaken in the name of 'goodness," but in fact undermine it to the very core, then come on down to the Chopin basement and take in Two Light's Theatre Company's charged, powerful production. The denizens of Silver's play are all young, liberal  radicals. By day they protest, march and bomb while by night, they drink and screw and fight. Despite their lofty morals, they are utterly despicable human beings. Were this a Neil Labute play, they would all be terrible bores. But this being  a Nicky Silver play, infused with a puckish, winking charm, they are a delight. Things start off with a bang (figuratively)  with a pair of silhouetted, two-backed beasts and then again with a bang (this time literally) when a despairing soap  opera starlet, Sydney (Bridget Schreiber) puts a bullet through her sleeping lover, Ethan (Daniel McEllivy). Her efforts to cover up the deed draw her into the lives of her social worker brother Ronald, (Will Von Vogt) and Ethan's fellow radical Cybil (Annie Pritchard). The play is ostensibly a farce, albeit one with a dark Orton-esque conclusion. The cast on the whole is very strong. As Ronald, Von Vogt is especially wonderful, surpassed only by Aaron Kirby as Lance, a drug addicted hooker and new love of Ronald's life. Both men bring a touching vulnerability to their performances, Von Vogt's curdling into self-interest and Kirby's blossoming into fragile innocence. It also helps that they both have crack comedic timing. And Pritchard brings a strange, volatile physicality to Cybil, turning her from empty-headed youth to a whirling dervish of want. But where the production sets itself apart is in its strong design. Co-directions Matt Olson and Ellen Chambers have managed to bring an entire world to life with only a few simple elements: 3 white beds, a wall of venetian blinds and a few colored props. (Set and props by Olson.)  The lighting by Nick Belley creates an appropriate club-like atmosphere as well as isolating the individual action.  But the strongest element is the sound by Jack Hawkins. From the pounding score to the sharp click of a lightbulb  whenever a scene shifts location (Which Silver's script does often), the sound design binds the show together,  making harmonic what could easily be cacophonous. Audiences interested in a pleasant evening should not see this show.
But audiences interested in good theatre definitely must".


From the Director - “I grew up in a beautiful house…two parents, two cars, a sky that was extremely blue…and I had no idea that the world was unfair.”

The Altruists in America, 2012: Who are the youth of this country? Are they the noble and selfless rebels, making love like Olympians?  Or are they just drunk on insanity, rioting and self-absorption? Are they a destructive power in a pretty package, or simply addicted to consumption and dysfunction, conducting bacchanalian orgies of cheap wine and non-ideas?

Whoever they are, they're the nucleus of a band of pseudo-left-wing hooligans and so-called radicals, and they’re in over their heads with sex, drugs, and guns…they’re the five young radicals that make up THE ALTRUISTS and they’re running wild in the streets of an Occupied America, where love is a political act and where an "accidental" death has nightmarish ramifications for the reckless,  the damned, and the stoned. In Nicky Silver's verbose, violent, terrifying, and hilarious play, love dies and hope rots…but firebombs don’t grow on trees.


I WANT ( ______ ), an conceptual and interactive art installation compliments the play and can be viewed before/after the performance.  Featuring artists Harriet Misholem and Von Bilka and curated by Julia Dvorkin. Inspired by the works of Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer.

Nicky Silver

Matt Olson and Ellen Chambers

Aaron Kirby, Daniel McEvilly, Annie Prichard, Bridget Schreiber, Will Von Vogt

Costume Designer - Olivia Grzaco; Light Designer - Nick Belley; Sound Designer - Jack Hawkins; Dramaturg - Sam Nicodemus; Stage Manager - Eleni Sauveageu; Vocal Coach - Sammi Grant

Tags: Theater, American, 2012