There is a little of Keith Fox’s character in all of us.

At least that’s how Fox’s latest portrayer, Independence resident David Calkins, views the unsuccessful American playwright who ventured to Paris.

There is a little of Keith Fox’s character in all of us.
At least that’s how Fox’s latest portrayer, Independence resident David Calkins, views the unsuccessful American playwright who ventured to Paris.
Fox, the main character in Conrad Sutton Smith’s 1962 play “Chain of Circumstances,” spent 12 years writing plays and never saw a single one of them produced or printed.
“He’s still looking for that success, and he is becoming very desperate,” Calkins says in describing his character. “It’s essentially his last chance at this. If he can’t make this one work, it’s all going to be over.”
“Chain of Circumstances,” a murder drama set in the 1960s, opens tonight as the second production in the City Theatre of Independence’s 30th season. Though he’s acted in the Chicago suburbs, this production marks Calkins’ debut in Independence.
“He’s kind of like all of us. We all have dreams that we want to achieve,” Calkins says of Fox. “Probably like most of us, we’re kind of frustrated in trying to reach those dreams. The question then is, what do we do when we see that we’re not achieving those dreams? What decisions do we make, and what are the consequences of those decisions?” 
Robin Meredith, portrayed by City Theatre of Independence veteran actor Jack McCord, enters the production as a playwright who needs someone to type his latest play. Meredith is a successfully published American playwright, though his plays are typically dinner theater productions that lack substance, McCord says.
“As he tells Keith later, ‘In my plays, I have nothing to say,’” McCord says of his character, a globe-trotting loner who lacks a family. “In one of the best lines, he says, ‘I subscribe to George S. Kaufman’s old advice: If you have a message, call Western Union.’”
In typing Meredith’s play, Fox realizes the historical matter is the exact same as his new play, the last shot  he has with his career. The middle of the production features a disagreement between Fox and Meredith over style, McCord says, “and things happen. They settle it with a pen.”  
Meredith is a playboy-type, McCord says, which is substantially different from McCord’s self-described easy-going, “more of a friend than a lover” personality. 
“Though in my case, he probably looks like an aging Jack Nicholson,” McCord says, jokingly referring to the famous actor that he strongly resembles. “He probably looks at himself as more of a cross between Cary Grant and Hugh Hefner. Robin’s a little pompous. He’s good, and he knows he’s good.”
“Chain of Circumstances” is a more somber and serious production than McCord’s previous performance in the City Theatre of Independence’s September production “Escanaba in Da Moonlight.” He describes it as a “killer thriller.”
“I think it helps you listen because there’s not a lot of action in here. There’s no explosions or blood running down the walls,” McCord says, adding that the production relies on a relatively simple set design and prop list. “It’s a psychological thriller, and it forces you to listen to the story. Being so much more wording, it actually delves into the characters a lot deeper than other shows. It’s more of a thinking man’s play.”