Clay Continent | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Clay Continent 

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The Mammals have been plying their extravagantly minimal trade for three years now, interpreting the classics in gory, surreal productions that range from smart straight-ahead camp to baffling high-art abstraction. Decidedly the latter (but terrific) was last year's Clay Continent, adapter-director Bob Fisher's delirious collaged-text take on Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This remount is polished and perfected, still challenging but more accessible. Though they've sacrificed some of the original's chaotic edge, the Mammals have thus achieved a cool intelligibility crucial to such language-intensive work: the blocking has been streamlined, and the sound design--previously a sometimes overwhelming echolalic tornado--has been cleaned up yet retains its throbbing menace. Actors Alex Honzen, Derek Smart, and Ron Kroll were excellent the first time around but bring more authority and focus here to the collective description of schizophrenia. And though the script's twists were unusually well fitted to the difficult, dungeonlike Space, they now seem inextricable from its tortuous, claustrophobic architecture (with credit due especially to Patrick McCarthy's evocative backdrop of scrawled diagrams and formulas). This Clay Continent may lack the raw fury of last year's edition, but its elegant, poetic dread is still more impressive--a chilling whisper to that production's scream. The Space, 4829 N. Damen, 773-293-0431. Through February 2: Fridays-Saturdays, 8 PM. $10.

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