Henry Flamethrowa | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Henry Flamethrowa 

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Henry Flamethrowa, Victory Gardens Theater. John Belluso's breezy 80-minute drama, about a comatose young woman who may or may not have the power to heal, is about a lot of things: Catholic mysticism, moral relativism, the Internet, dysfunctional families, investigative journalism, and the place of evil in the postmodern world. And that's a problem. If Belluso had focused on one or two of these issues, he might have written a strong play with a beginning, middle, and end. But because he decided to include them all, Henry Flamethrowa takes a while to get started and never comes to a satisfactory ending, leaving lots of false starts and loose ends.

That's a shame, because judging by the three characters here--an eccentric father, a difficult son, and a reporter from hell--Belluso knows how to give directors and actors what they need to do vivid work. Justin Cholewa is particularly menacing as the disturbed adolescent who posts troubling messages about suicide and murder on the Web under his avatar name, Henry Flamethrowa. David Pasquesi as the father delivers a fine rendition of his trademark manipulative, eccentric male. And Janelle Snow gracefully negotiates the writer, a role that requires her to be both inquisitive and secretive, eager to ferret out the truth and unwilling to lay her cards on the table.

Unfortunately, great performances can't compensate for a script that keeps changing direction.


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