Big Nothings | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Big Nothings 

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BIG NOTHINGS, Hysteria Productions, at Curious Theatre Branch. Matthew Wilson's trio of one-acts is so slight it nearly vanishes on the spot. In each script, one person tries to control another, which the victim resists by concealing something. But these common threads aren't woven into any pattern. What does the overearnest schoolteacher in the first scene have in common with the larcenous wife in the second or the oddly passive surgeon in the third? Does it signify anything that the secretive student in the first scene becomes, in the third scene, another character about whom we learn nothing? The intriguingly elliptical dialogue doesn't add up to anything, instead drifting into a miasma of "profound" exchanges like "I was a child"--"We all were, once."

Wilson himself and Joy L. Sterling play all the scenes. He's persuasive as the student refusing to confide in the teacher, and touching when this proves to be self-defense rather than youthful defiance. He's less interesting as the husband oblivious to his wife's complicity in a theft, and he barely registers in the final scene, relaying to the surgeon what's said to him on a cell phone. Sterling is suitably intrusive as the teacher, but the character's motives remain obscure, as do those of the surgeon. She's more comprehensible as the wife, but mysteriously changes from a southern to a Bronx accent midscene. Director James Berner paces the evening well, but if he's penetrated Wilson's meanings, he's not sharing them with us.

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