Suggestions for the Prevention of Serial Murder, O Theater, at Chicago Dramatists. This is the sort of play a talented individual writes when he's still more talented than individual. First produced as an MFA thesis project, Carey Friedman's script is all hip absurdism and stylish allusion--erudite proof that he can reference all the right aesthetics from a theater department point of view. Yes, I've read Artaud and Genet. I can do ritual. I can do satire. I can make mouth music that sounds like early Shepard. I can be scathing and daring and still hit that quirky heartbreaking note Scott McPherson hit in Marvin's Room. I'm as visual as they come, and I can juxtapose like nobody's business.
It's all true: this is one hell of a master's thesis. It's just not a very satisfying play. For all that I appreciated Friedman's can-you-top-this theatricality as both playwright and director, I also grew impatient with it. The whole enterprise smacks too heavily of empty flourishes and calculated eccentricities. One character's name is pronounced differently by each person who speaks it, another performs arcane ablutions with an eyedropper. Why? I dunno--just to be coy, I guess. Still, I'm glad I saw this show. Friedman's ultimate subject here may be his own wit, but that wit is abundant. And worth developing. With the help of an unlikely/perfect cast and Jason Greenberg's stunning set, Friedman manages to give intimations of marvels. And even the Marvelous.