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Thursday, February 9, 2012

The latest Reader performing arts reviews and previews

Posted By on 02.09.12 at 02:45 PM

Shame is an overwhelming emotion. When it mixes with religion, it becomes an explosive force. Two plays this week go right ahead and light the fuse: Hesperia and Disgrace. In the former, a porn star joins an evangelical community, hoping to regain her innocence. In the latter, a corporate lawyer tries to run as far away from his Muslim upbringing as he can. Reader critic Zac Thompson recommends Hesperia, saying that playwright Randall Colburn paints his characters as, well, real characters, rather than chick tract stereotypes.

If you'd rather not get blown to pieces, then try a comedy—though one or two of these can get gunpowder black at times. In Larry Shue's The Foreigner, a shy man pretends he can't speak English while staying at a resort and ends up learning everyone else's secrets. The Gog/Magog Project spoofs extreme performance art by letting an artist rant from inside a chicken wire cage. The Hypocrites revive Luigi Pirandello's classic 20th-century mindfuck, Six Characters in Search of an Author. Paul Smith's Unnecessary Farce deftly balances the mechanics of comedy and character development in a tale of seven fools. And Jack's Precious Moment concerns a contractor who runs into an unfortunate situation with jihadists in Iraq.

Also recommended: Peter Pan's Shadow, the first piece of a new trilogy by Dream Theatre's Jeremy Menekseoglu; anti-Valentine's Day cabaret Letters/X; and Zastrozzi, the Master of Discipline, a melodramatic Gothic tale based on a novel Percy Shelley published when he was 17 years old. (Before you decide that's a bad thing, remember that Frankenstein was a melodramatic Gothic tale written by Shelley's 18-year-old wife—and that turned out pretty well.)

But wait, there's more, including Bachelorette, in which a vicious maid-of-honor does all she can to sabotage the bride-to-be short of tearing her eyes out; G.B. Shaw's Androcles and the Lion, offered in a concert reading; and El Mari Chi Chi, a burlesque show-cum-satire based on Robert Rodriguez's 1995 cult film Desperado. Check out our overview of MPAACT's late-night solo performance series, Solo Jams, as well.

Finally, Reader critic Laura Molzahn recommends a couple dance programs. River North Dance Chicago presents two Valentine's Day-appropriate world premieres, plus several familiar works, under the title "Love Is . . .", and Bonedanse's This Is a Damage Manual spoofs self-improvement in eight vignettes.

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