Crazyface | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


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Crazyface, Constellation Players, at the Chopin Theatre. Narrative has never been much of a consideration for Clive Barker. To be sure, the British horror specialist's depictions of the grotesque and arcane always pack an uncomfortable punch, but in his novels the sum is uniformly weaker than the parts. Trying to induce nightmares by spewing incoherent nonsense, Barker doesn't bother much with plot and character. And given his rambling, long-winded style, his stories often feel more pretentious than menacing.

It comes as no surprise, then, that before Barker became a self-indulgent, narcissistic novelist he was a self-indulgent, narcissistic playwright for the London stage. And like the majority of his work, Crazyface--an update of the legend of medieval prankster Tyl Eulenspiegel--feels both unfocused and unfinished. Part of the problem is Barker's kitchen-sink approach to writing: the script waffles between Alfred Jarry-style absurdism, vaudevillian humor, commedia dell'arte, and overcooked melodrama. One moment his characters are scrambling around in a Keystone Kops pantomime, and the next they're testing theatrical limits by urinating onstage.

To their credit the Constellation Players, based in Indiana, manage to make Barker's wretched collection of non sequiturs moderately interesting. Dan Winkler's clever staging and a handful of gutsy, over-the-top performances add much needed color to a lifeless script. But creating order out of chaos is a feat even the most ambitious theater group can't manage.

--Nick Green


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