A Delicate Balance | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

A Delicate Balance 

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A DELICATE BALANCE, Pyewacket, at North Lakeside Cultural Center. Edward Albee won a Pulitzer in 1967 for this play. Still, it feels second-rate, lacking both the savagery of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the absurdity of Tiny Alice. A Delicate Balance is Albee for people who simply want to snicker at the foibles of upper-class WASPs.

The story is pure soap opera--involving substance abuse, possible adulteries, and a daughter who keeps getting divorced--told at the slow, passionless pace of WFMT announcers. Albee adds just a touch of 60s-style existential dread when the lead characters' best friends, Harry and Edna, show up one day admitting they suddenly feel afraid and lost. Albee uses this philosophical crisis, which might have opened out into the couple's psychological growth or at least a critique of their lives, as just one excuse among many in the play to throw rocks at his characters and at the audience.

A little of this bad-boy stuff goes a long way, especially when it's being performed by a non-Equity cast that often can't convey the play's emotional extremes. David Tatosian in particular never quite convinces as the play's emotionally deadened middle-aged protagonist, Tobias. The only truly successful performance comes from Pyewacket artistic director Kate Harris as a credibly bitter unmarried alcoholic. Unfortunately she never gets to play off anyone who's her equal in depth and breadth.

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