Jungle Rot | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Jungle Rot 

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JUNGLE ROT, Noble Fool Theater Company. Seth Greenland's comedy about the CIA's attempt to assassinate Patrice Lumumba has a lot going for it: an intriguing plot, bizarre characters, an exotic setting. But because the playwright never resolves the question of tone, the humor fizzles out in a no-man's-land somewhere between Graham Greene and Hogan's Heroes. The story has farcical elements: one woman is supposed to ply the Congolese leader with poisoned wine, then kiss him to death using poisoned lipstick--giving new meaning to the phrase about slips between cup and lip. But political assassination is a poor foundation for hilarity. Nor is Greenland's political insight sufficient to make Jungle Rot a satire. Perhaps if he made more of the Macbeth parallels in the script--ambition and a discontented wife push station chief John Stillman toward murder--the play would have some ballast.

Under Sheldon Patinkin's sharp direction, every member of the cast does well, though each often seems to be in a different play. In the comedy-of-manners sections, Norah Helling distinguishes herself as Patience Stillman, a spoiled heiress who would literally kill for a posting to Washington. Michael Govier makes a superb mad scientist, pulling out lethal potions from his bag while smilingly recounting his children's blossoming interest in chemistry. And Paul Connell and Debra Ann Miller suggest Archie and Edith Bunker as they navigate their pointless innocents-abroad subplot.

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