Damn the Torpedoes! | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Damn the Torpedoes! 

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Damn The Torpedoes! Stockyards Theatre Project, at the Heartland Studio Theater. Disney meets A Clockwork Orange in Jill Elaine Hughes's rather rudderless tale of six offenders locked in the detention center of Whimsey World, a theme park housing a cartoon-worshiping cult. A repressed British couple, a trailer-park mom and her four-year-old son, a stoner Pepperdine student, and a world-renowned Indian novelist have been incarcerated for such offenses as throwing feces at little robot singers representing children from around the world. Planning to overthrow the brainwashing system of "the happiest, smilingest place on earth," they borrow from Marcus Aurelius, Plato, and the book of Revelation to create an alternate mythical reality--a "Technicolor apocalypse with a happy ending"--barraging their captors with catastrophic messages that jam the frequencies of their Whimsical Order.

Like so many world premieres in Chicago storefront theaters, this one has some intriguing ideas: a mind-bending escape plan, a satire on the cultlike Magic Kingdom, an exploration of good and evil. And like so many new scripts, Hughes's doesn't deliver. The strategizing and philosophizing of the master plan read like a superficial, poorly organized term paper written from Cliffs Notes. Cat Gleason's lackluster direction doesn't help. She had an opportunity to create a Small, Small World of Hell that would make us feel for these prisoners, but instead she's stuck us in a gray cell with a toilet and lots of pedantic whiners.

--Kim Wilson

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