Profiles Theatre: “Hellcab” Turns 20

You meet a lot of interesting characters when you’re driving a cab — the good, the bad, the weird … and everyone in between.

That’s what happens, anyway, to the guy who drives the taxi in Will Kern’s play “Hellcab,” a Chicago cult hit that’s back for a 20th-anniversary revival at Profiles Theatre. The premise is simple: It’s a day in the life of a Russian immigrant cabbie, as he picks up one passenger after another on the streets of Chicago on Christmas Eve.

That isn’t much of a plot, but it’s strangely compelling to watch the motley crew of Chicago characters who hop into his taxi — an actual taxi sitting on the stage, with its roof and windows removed to improve the audience’s line of sight. The passengers range from a hyperactive druggie and a pregnant woman in labor to a crank obsessed with space exploration and a couple of preachy churchgoers.

A few actors play more than one character in director Darrell W. Cox’s production, but there are a lot of actors getting into that blue cab over the course of the show: “Hellcab” has a cast of 34 — a huge ensemble for a small storefront theater. And what a richly varied bunch of performers they are. They feel like an authentic cross-section of the people you might actually encounter driving a cab all over the city.

The one character who’s onstage the entire time is the cabbie himself, and actor Konstantin Khrustov nails the part. It’s marvelous to watch expressions ranging from delight to dread flash across his face as he reacts to words and actions of his passengers. After one particularly scary ride, the cabbie tells himself, “I hate this (expletive) job. I drive a cab for Satan — a hell cab.” And yet, along with all of the bad, he witnesses some proof of human kindness. Despite some hellacious moments along the way, “Hellcab” arrives at its final destination with a feeling of Christmas spirit.

“Hellcab” continues through Dec. 23 at Profiles Theatre’s The Main Stage, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago. For tickets and show times, call 773-549-1815 or visit www.profilestheatre.org.

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