For What? or Looking For Lenin in all the Wrong Places | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

For What? or Looking For Lenin in all the Wrong Places 

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FOR WHAT? or LOOKING FOR LENIN IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES, Bailiwick Repertory. The latest installment in the summer-long "Pride Series" is David Parris's merry monologue-travelogue--a hit at the Toronto Fringe Festival--detailing his culture-clashing trip to Russia, where he hoped to sample the heritage of his lover Valery, a Russian who refuses to risk arrest for his homosexuality.

Playing Candide, Parris is fascinated by all things Russian--black bread, birch trees, ugly and magnificent architecture, soulful suffering, hard drinking, and litter-free subways lit by chandeliers. Though he never gets to Lenin's tomb (his prime objective as a tourist), he enjoys a crazy barbecue in a forest with seven gay Russians, including Bonk, a horny translator. Parris is charmed by Valery's mother and her homemade gifts--and bewildered by the justifiable coldness of Valery's abandoned wife, Olga. Armed with slides depicting Soviet posters and the people he comes to love, Parris piles up delightful details as he contrasts the hard life and easy joy of the Russians with his crazy family in Topeka, Kansas--a city as mired in depression, Valery remarks, as Moscow is supposed to be.

Brad Nelson Winters's staging keeps this 75-minute work brisk and fun, with Parris aptly mimicking his brothers, his Slavic soulmates, and even a wrathful Vladimir Lenin, who appears in Parris's dreams to denounce the new Russia. Tovarich! --Lawrence Bommer

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