Five Easy Theatre Pieces | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Five Easy Theatre Pieces 

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Five Easy Theatre Pieces, Harridan Theatre Productions, at the Chopin Theatre. This evening showcases the many sides of playwright Ester Lebo. Not every piece goes down easy, however. The brief opener, Three Strangers, is billed as "the classic writing exercise" and feels like it, building some intrigue between a mysterious woman and two yokels in a diner, then fizzling out. Emma and Eustacia shows Lebo at her clever best, placing Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Hardy's Eustacia side by side in data-entry temp jobs, bemoaning their unfulfilled passions to each other and the computer-repair guy.

Cordelia and Goneril also puts new words into the mouths of famous characters but takes a dramatic turn: this scene immediately precedes Cordelia's hanging, showing her solitary introspection and a bitter sibling exchange. Roni Geva quietly reveals the depths of Cordelia's wounds--which makes Janell Cox's loud, bitter Goneril seem a bit cartoony by comparison.

After intermission, things get rough. Culture Wars lives up to its subtitle ("A Very Bad Scene") from the first word of its stilted narration, following the dated, tired, implausible saga of a librarian trying to keep her bookshelves and students safe from all manner of threats, from street gangs to the Internet. Electra, the finale, could use more of the flavor of its 1940s Bronzeville setting, but at least the title character's immortal dysfunctional family puts the evening back on track.

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