Curse of the Starving Class | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Curse of the Starving Class 

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CURSE OF THE STARVING CLASS, Hypocrites, at the Viaduct Theatre. Sam Shepard's 1976 play is very much an artifact of that bleak, morally bankrupt bicentennial year. His archetypal American family, well fed but spiritually hungry, has been shattered by selfishness: dad's a drunk, mom's a bullying bitch, and the brother and sister, both in their late teens, fight like two toddlers reaching for the same Power Rangers action figure.

Unfortunately this darkly comic journey into the depths of the American psyche is as resonant as ever: we remain a remarkably mean-spirited and hypocritical country, quick to judge other's failings and ignore or excuse our own. So it's not suprising that an off-off-Loop theater group with the cheek to call themselves the Hypocrites would stage a loud, energetic, kick-ass version of the play that both captures the troubled spirit of '76--most notable in the almost total lack of empathy among Shepard's sensation-loving narcissists--and the playwright's radical deconstruction of our culture.

Director Sean Graney and his cast of Chicago-fringe stalwarts--among them Rich Cotovsky, Mechelle Moe, and Nick Digilio--play Shepard to the hilt, reveling in the play's outrageous twisty plot and surfeit of long monologues, many of them self-referential send-ups of long monologues. Together Graney and his cast explore the play's troubling message with intelligence and care: the center cannot hold, the falcon cannot hear the falconer, but who the hell cares, we just wanna have fun.

--Jack Helbig


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