Not even a first-rate cast can save Curve of Departure | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Not even a first-rate cast can save Curve of Departure 

The characters are well drawn, but the story isn't all that compelling.

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click to enlarge Penelope Walker and Mike Nussbaum

Penelope Walker and Mike Nussbaum

Michael Brosilow

Rachel Bonds's family drama concerns three generations of prickly, difficult people—an aged father, his long-suffering daughter-in-law, her fairly well-adjusted son, and his way-too-understanding partner—who have gathered together for the funeral of a man none of them liked. It's not a particularly witty play. Nor does Bonds reveal many deep truths about life and love and all that. Nor is the slice-of-life story she tells particularly compelling.

But her characters are well drawn. And the challenges they face over the course of the play—aging, ambivalence, fear of commitment, mourning the loss of people who treated us badly—do keep our attention, mostly. The ensemble director BJ Jones has pulled together for this production is first-rate, led by the iconic Chicago actor Mike Nussbaum, who describes himself in the program as "the oldest actor still working on stage." And the performances throughout feel spot-on.

Great acting and well-crafted writing are not enough, though. The play feels longer than its 80 minutes. Bonds's characters are relatable, as are all their myriad moments of quiet and not-so-quiet desperation, but in the end she and Jones and company leave us cold and unsatisfied.   v


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