Horse Country | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Horse Country 

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Horse Country, Alchymia Theatre. Ever since Beckett's Waiting for Godot opened in Paris in 1953, dozens of playwrights have attempted to comment on the emptiness of modern life by having characters hang out on desolate stages and talk on and on. A few of the brilliant ones--Harold Pinter, David Mamet, Tom Stoppard--have managed to both learn from the master and find their own voices.

But most writers end up like C.J. Hopkins, turning out smug, dull, hopelessly self-conscious plays full of chatter signifying nothing. In Horse Country, Hopkins spins a few variations on Godot. His characters are not shabby tramps but sharply dressed nobodies. They could be wiseguys or police detectives--the play hints at both. They're not waiting for anyone specific, though it's clear partway through this seemingly endless 85-minute one-act that they're waiting for something. (At times it seems they're waiting for the playwright to figure out what he's doing.)

The big difference between Beckett and Hopkins, though, is that Beckett uses language brilliantly and Hopkins does not. His attempts at clever lines are usually pure sitcom--desperate, predictable gags intended to raise a sagging show. Unwisely, Hopkins also directs, underscoring his script's emotional coldness by having the actors avoid eye contact and deliver all their lines to the audience, as if they were baggy-pants comics in a vaudeville show. The effect is interesting for about five minutes.

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