First Love is the Revolution examines the brutal nature of humans and other animals | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

First Love is the Revolution examines the brutal nature of humans and other animals 

In Rita Kalnejais's modern fable, parents pass on their prejudices to their children.

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Gregg Gilman

Whimsical, brutal, and evocative of The Secret of NIMH, First Love is the Revolution is a modern fable and one of the more interesting plays I've seen. It's the story of Rdeca, a young fox who allows herself to be tamed by a human teenager, Basti, and the consequences of that choice. In the dramaturg's notes, we learn that playwright Rita Kalnejais was inspired by an unspecified international dispute. Fortunately, Kalnejais did not write a direct allegory, which saves this from becoming a morality play.

Isa Arciniegas plays Rdeca with a bubbly intensity as she navigates coming of age, her enthusiasm and fear combining to create an intense and deadly teenage recklessness. When her mother Cochineal (played by Lucy Carapetyan in a heartbreaking performance) teaches Rdeca to kill, it becomes a powerful metaphor for parents passing on their brutality and prejudices to their children under the guise of "survival tools."

Jordan Arredondo, who plays Basti, has a gentle presence. "You smell like something that has given up," Rdeca tells him, a terrifying dare to measure up to the bar of aggressiveness our society forces on men. Director Devon de Mayo is at her best when teasing out the charm and comedy in the destruction. Sequences involving supporting actors playing a dog, cat, chickens, and a mole are absolutely hilarious. However, the intentionally light tone takes the air out of a few of the more brutal and dramatic moments of the play, including the wild and disquieting ending.   v

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