Aztec Hotel | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Aztec Hotel 

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Aztec Hotel, Teatr Cogitatur, at the Chopin Theatre. For a city with such a large Polish population, Chicago gets surprisingly few opportunities to see contemporary Polish theater. Now Chopin artistic director Zygmunt Dyrkacz has brought in Katowice's experimental Teatr Cogitatur for a two-week stand ending this weekend. Aztec Hotel, created by Witold Izdebski and Katarzyna Izdebska--who's also one of the five performers in the piece--is an hour-long meditation on the joys and pains of mortality that veers between derivative and breathtaking.

Movement vignettes and visually arresting tableaux are interspersed with bits of discursive dialogue and voice-overs, primarily in English. Three creatures--angels, aliens, or some combination thereof--who have fallen to earth ponder the simple pleasures of life: vodka, sex, dancing, roses. A three-way mirror scene that pays homage to Orson Welles's famous fun-house sequence in The Lady From Shanghai neatly and slyly captures the confounding solipsism of existence, literally representing human identity as a matter of smoke and mirrors.

Despite the show's propulsive techno soundscape and postindustrial fashion-show aesthetic (sometimes I felt I was watching a rave version of Wim Wenders's Wings of Desire), it comes closest to the spirit of Emily Webb's last, affectionate speech in that most American of plays, Our Town: "Good-bye to clocks ticking and Mama's sunflowers." An underlying playfulness makes it easier to swallow the piece's occasional excesses.

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