Ajax Dans le Boulevard du Crime | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ajax Dans le Boulevard du Crime 

Late in Ajax Dans le Boulevard du Crime, Dial Performance Group's debut production, a woman as alluring and aloof as Isabella Rossellini appears on a tiny makeshift stage bathed in blue light and hums into a microphone that she's "looking for a strange and beautiful world." You may find such a world in this poetic, puzzling hour-long work, as mysterious, disturbing, and visually arresting as the grotesque reveries of the great Polish directors Tadeusz Kantor and Leszka Madzika. The piece centers around the story of a foolish man courting a sorceress in an attempt to rid himself of a disfiguring blemish (inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Birthmark"), but director John Dooley (formerly of Doorika) and his three-person cast also investigate sources as diverse as the life of Hitler's favorite filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, Marcel Carne's 1945 film classic Children of Paradise, and Sophocles' ancient tragedy Ajax. Employing a rigorous physical language as concise, expressive, and cryptic as the one employed by Goat Island performance group, the cast obliterates any sense of conventional narrative, instead jumbling text, image, and movement into an hallucinogenically precise conundrum. Stark shafts of light isolate the action in the vaulting warehouse where Ajax is performed, giving the work a dark, lush, Caravaggio-like austerity. In one section the actors dance with bloodred strings tied to the rafters, the strings alone lit by a single spot. While Dooley calls Ajax "sketchy" (and even disparages his gorgeous sound design), this hour is loaded with more twists and transformations than most companies put together during an entire season. Don't ask for closure, though; according to press materials, this piece is "scene one" of a work in progress. 218 N. Laflin, 243-4421. Friday and Saturday, December 9 and 10, 8 and 10 PM. $7.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Brien E. Rullman.

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