Dad's Ham | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Dad's Ham 

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DAD'S HAM, Trap Door Theatre. Catherine Sullivan is destined to become a great voice in the American avant-garde. But for now she's holed up in Trap Door's tiny theater, creating more thoughtful, aggravating, mysterious, entertaining moments in an hour than most companies can in a season. Dad's Ham, which Sullivan wrote and directed, is a hallucinogenic maelstrom of styles and forms with no easy outs for the audience. Nothing satisfies in a conventional sense, yet nearly everything engrosses.

Reminiscent of New York's influential Wooster Group as well as Chicago's uncategorizable Doorika, Dad's Ham is made up of seemingly unrelated pieces: a butcher carving her assistant with a cleaver while discussing the powers of Cupid, a forest ranger lamenting the fact that she's actually a cow drinking radiated water from bomb-test craters, actors breaking into bouts of robotic air guitar in the middle of scenes. All these bits collide under the metatheatrical eye of a video camera, which turns the live performance into a slick imitation of itself. Throughout, two actresses perform conventional scenes about murderous and/or licentious women, scripted in perfect imitation of Greek, Elizabethan, Restoration, and sitcom theater. Eliciting nuanced, mercurial performances from her cast of seven, Sullivan suspends the audience in a kind of preconscious state in which irresolvable but profound images seize the brain. It might take five viewings to understand this piece--because it's ten times more intelligent than most anything else you'll see this year.

--Justin Hayford


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