A Clean, Well-Lighted Place | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place 

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A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, Raven Theatre. Ernest Hemingway's stories tend to disappear under the tall shadow cast by his novels, but his short fiction upholds his reputation as a man of action--partly because of the writing. The stories read like plays, long on naturalistic dialogue and short on exposition. And director Teri McCaskill recognizes the voyeuristic thrill of eavesdropping on such tense exchanges in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, her tasteful adaptation of five of Hemingway's expatriate yarns.

McCaskill's biggest change to the original material is conflating the Swiss train station of "Homage to Switzerland" with the Spanish watering hole depicted in the other stories: the setting becomes a multinational way station where characters drift in and out at a natural pace. Any one of these stories might have made for an intriguing hour-long piece, though McCaskill plays it straight with a 55-minute adaptation that parallels the texts as closely as possible. Still, there's plenty of room for innuendo--and the finest performances take place in the background, courtesy of the actors playing bar backs and waitstaff. Their world-weary expressions convey every drop of longing and regret implicit in the dialogue.

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