A Bright Room Called Day | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

A Bright Room Called Day 

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A Bright Room Called Day, Blindfaith Theatre, at the Strawdog Theatre Company. Tony Kushner's most overwritten play merely hints at the knack for surrealist storytelling so brilliantly apparent in Angels in America. Here he tries to shove 50 pounds of assorted Marxist agitprop into a 10-pound bag fashioned from recycled history lessons, dreamscapes, and ACT-UP sound bites. The result is an industrious but pedantic work that hasn't aged well, its naked anger and outrage entirely unconvincing in our era of dot-com complacency.

A group of leftist artists in 1930s Berlin is the starting point for a story about the terrors of political tyranny and social apathy. But Kushner relies too heavily on the means of an overeager grad student at the podium rather than those of a playwright: slides explaining Nazi history, images of Hitler, recordings of Nazi speeches in full sputter.

But don't blame the sins of the play on this hardworking ensemble. Even though director Nicolas Minas is an occasional student of the Kushner School of Unambiguous Symbolism--for every subtle touch there's a moment of easy preaching, like a picture of Ronald Reagan with a Hitler mustache--he deftly guides an admirable cast through this narrative maze. As a self-centered actress, Lisa May Simpson deploys flickering eyes, pursed lips, and a bonny delivery in mesmerizing unison. Matthew Welton's husky voice and woeful inflections are well suited to the role of a principled filmmaker. And as the glue that holds the group together, Pedra Katherine O'Rourke conveys her character's indecisive air with graceful assurance.

--Erik Piepenburg

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