How to Manage Fear | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

How to Manage Fear 

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It's hard to describe Lucky Pierre's work, which is uniquely heady, playful, and perplexing. Like their previous collective efforts, their newest piece--How to Manage Fear--is based on a tiny slice of pop culture. Yet somehow the group extracts from the car chase in the 1968 film Bullitt enough material to make this show's 70 minutes seem to encompass the history of Western civilization. With trademark deadpan candor, the five performers spend the first third of the piece alternately scouring their memories for highway adventures--memories that continually morph into cinematic tropes--and chanting enthusiastic litanies of obscenities like doltish frat boys. Gradually these two strains converge; as the performers assemble into a panel to pick apart the Bullitt chase scene shot by shot--howling things like "Shit man. Go go go shit. Shit. Fuck. Check it out. Damn damn damn" in unison as the film plays--it's clear that their "memories" all come from the movie itself. It also becomes apparent that this classic car chase represents the destruction of the original Christian paradise (or "the incursion of the machine into the pastoral," as the mock panelists put it), leading the performers to manufacture their own Eden complete with inflatable plastic flowers and a Backstreet Boys sound track. The subtle religiosity of the work is ingeniously enhanced by Jeffrey Kowalkowski's score, which injects bumbling lyrics into Haydn's The Creation throughout the evening. Although only Mary Zerkel and director Michael Thomas remain of the group's original personnel, with newcomers Kowalkowski, Tyler B. Myers, Holly Abney, and Bill Talsma they form Lucky Pierre's strongest, most beguiling ensemble yet. With its intricate structure and perfectly articulated arc, How to Manage Fear is about as close as you can get to performance-art heaven. Lucky Pierre, 2003 W. Fulton, 773-395-2602. Through April 20: Fridays-Saturdays, 8 PM; no shows April 5-13. $7.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/L. Pierre.

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