It Is Magic takes a sympathetic look at the world of storefront theater | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

It Is Magic takes a sympathetic look at the world of storefront theater 

How and why do you go on making art in the face of indifference?

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Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

Theater Oobleck presents the world premiere of Mickle Maher's latest hilarious tragedy. In the basement of a community theater (very much like the Chopin, where this production is being staged), two middle-aged sisters who have given 20 years of their lives to the company flail while holding auditions for an adult-oriented version of The Three Little Pigs. Meanwhile, upstairs on the main stage, the pompous artistic director is mounting his take on Macbeth.

What starts as an irreverent skewering of storefront theater gains depth and resonance as the parallels between the children's tale downstairs and tragedy upstairs come into focus. Maher manages the difficult trick of simultaneously mocking these doomed wannabe thespians while making the audience completely identify with their struggle. He also slips in plenty of timely commentary on workplace power dynamics and the impossible odds against continuing to express oneself creatively in a society that values little besides commerce.

Even as the proceedings seem to take a metaphysical (or perhaps mythological) turn, Maher never slackens the tension between silly and serious and never allows his characters to stoop to cheap laughs or gratuitous dramatics. There isn't a second when there's any doubt that any of these people don't believe in what they're doing. A very earnest question is at the heart of this play, the question every artist must ask sooner or later: how and why do you go on in the face of overwhelming indifference?   v

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