As Reader movie critic J.R. Jones noted in his review, the original version of Margaret was much longer than the one that reached theaters. Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan was forced to cut the running time down to 149 minutes in order to get it released, and it's interesting to speculate on what exactly is missing from the tale of Lisa Cohen, a privileged Manhattan teen who goes a little mad after inadvertently causing a bus accident that kills a woman. Jones points, convincingly, to scenes involving Matt Damon as Mr. Aaron, Lisa's far too understanding math teacher. I tend to think some of the cuts must've come out of a subplot involving Lisa's divorced mom, Joan, and her courtly Colombian boyfriend, Ramon. Guilt and mourning are heavy presences in Margaret, and Joan has good reason to feel both when it comes to Ramon. In effect, he's her bus accident. And yet the scene in which she addresses the wreck directly seems to have been snipped from the movie.
That's how I felt on seeing Manual Cinema's Ada/Ava last summer.
All shadow-puppet plays necessarily look at least a little bit alike, so it was familiar in that respect. And the subject matter—an exploration of what happens when inseparable old twins are finally parted by death—seemed redolent, picking up on ingrown-sibling lore that runs from the pixilated sisters in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town through the murderous ones in Arsenic and Old Lace to the weird ones in Macbeth (with a side trip to the hoarding Collyer brothers of books, plays, movies, and reality). What took me by surprise was the Dante-esque journey undertaken—part willingly, but part not—by the devastated surviving twin, Ada, as she tried to master her loss. A visit to a traveling carnival yielded twisted images and false exits worthy of the hall-of-mirrors shoot-out in The Lady From Shanghai.
Also recommended are DreamLogic Theatrework's Elder Gods, a promenade-style adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness; the Actors Gymnasium's sweet Lost and Found: A Recycled Circus, featuring an outstanding cast of adults, teens, and kids; and They Are Dying Out, Trap Door Theatre's version of a 1973 satire by Austrian provocateur Peter Handke. The intimacy of a black-box set makes for great theater in Mary-Arrchie's revival of the 2008 Tracy Letts comedy Superior Donuts and (Re)discover Theater's Hamlet, which amps up the classic play's sex appeal by emphasizing the relationship between the melancholy Dane and Ophelia. (Hurry if you want to see Hamlet: it closes Saturday.)
Meanwhile, we have five Chicago-made shows to recommend.
Teatro Luna premiered Crossed late last year. The Reader's Julia Thiel liked it then, but the Lunas revised it anyway. Now this montage of scenes about immigrants, legal and otherwise, seems angrier in tone, and it's also jettisoned one of Thiel's favorite bits (a disembodied voice at an airport, sorting passengers for "additional screening based on the color of their labia"). But overall, we're sticking by our earlier assessment.