Foolin' Around With Infinity | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Foolin' Around With Infinity 

FOOLIN' AROUND WITH INFINITY, Phalanx Theater, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Steven Dietz's smart 1987 play with a stupid title gets a near definitive production from this new company. Dietz--who points out that searches for weapons of mass destruction needn't go further than our own backyard--uses a stylistic mix of realism and metafiction to complement the play's thematic mix of physics and metaphysics. A narrator called "You" recounts the story of fallout shelter resident Luke and her father, guardian of America's silo-based nuclear deterrent. Their relationship offers insight into the use of nuclear devices, not to mention psychological devices for ignoring unacceptable knowledge. A dream character called Mr. Anderson blows through frequently, spouting reassurance while acknowledging that neither fallout shelter nor silo will save anyone.

The piece requires emotional depth as well as intellectual dexterity, and director Luke Hatton provides both to create a production that's crisp without being brittle. Jonathan Berry makes the protean Mr. Anderson painfully believable, whether as hapless emergency planner or reckless silo guard, and Erinn Strain gives You such authority that no audience member would approach her as she waited in the lobby at intermission. As Luke, Jenny Connell makes a principled stance out of what could have been an extended sulk (daughter unable to live with father's profession goes on strike against life), while Ed Smaron gives her father the perfect degree of moral hollowness. Tom Bateman's deft silo assistant is an accident waiting to happen. This exceptional work should start some useful conversations.

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