Eagle Hills, Eagle Ridge, Eagle Landing/Lab Rats | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Eagle Hills, Eagle Ridge, Eagle Landing/Lab Rats 

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Eagle Hills, Eagle Ridge, Eagle Landing, Factory Theater, at Stage Left Theatre. Lab Rats, Factory Theater, at Stage Left Theatre. Eagle Hills, Eagle Ridge, Eagle Landing is about men leading lives of quiet desperation. Lab Rats is a series of sketches suggesting that the solution is to crank up the volume. Each benefits from exceptional acting, but even strong actors require direction and a script, and neither piece has much to offer in either department. Eagle Hills sits three men at a bar table and puts them through an archetypally boring after-work conversation designed to reveal the narrow status consciousness of their lives. When one of them goes mysteriously off the rails this homage to Mamet becomes an homage to Albee. Playwright Brett Neveu imitates the rhythms of Mamet's dialogue without grasping the violence and pain that underlies it. Or maybe that substratum simply isn't mined by director Steve Walker, who gives the actors a free hand. As a result the conversation in act one is arrhythmic and that in act two sits uneasily on the fault line between comic drama and farce.

Peter Marcy clowns charmingly, while Keith Ellis is as truculent as the whole cast of American Buffalo. Dale Rivera turns from intriguing time bomb to persuasive maniac, but no single character can communicate what's at stake for the trio.

The ten lively actors of Lab Rats are served even less well by their playwrights, of whom there are also ten. They have some interesting ideas, and the piece by Ellis about an alienated worker writing to a porn queen is brilliant. But the writers will never be supremely funny until they restrain their lazy reliance on bodily fluids and functions.

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