Kinder, Gentler | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Kinder, Gentler 

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Kinder, Gentler, Powertap Productions, at the Organic Theater Greenhouse, Lab Theater. If I hadn't known the title of Stan Nevin's new play or read the press release claiming that "kindness is the wonder-tool of the decade," I would have guessed that this three-character drama concerned the effect of mental illness on the family. A sadly well-meaning man, Walter, is torn between a somewhat aggressive girlfriend, Jackie, and his clearly disturbed, very codependent sister Angela. Throughout the play Nevin belittles Angela's impassioned activism on behalf of cats by playing it against Jackie's more grounded sense of fairness.

But unfortunately these characters are too two-dimensional to create honest dramatic scenes; instead of diving into a drama about intimacy and fear, the play seems caught up in its own theories. Kindness is given a very shallow look and definition. More than kindness, it's Walter's sense of responsibility that motivates him; Angela has a general sense of kindness, but one must take her mental illness into account; and Jackie changes from bitch to saint between acts--we don't get to see the transformation. If Nevin's point is that our society's view of kindness is shallow, then he needs to go deeper in his exploration.

Still, the three actors manage to make the most of the script, and between them they create some honest, moving moments. Their characters clearly have roots in our society, but they need more concrete action: they seem stuck in a world of floating words.

--Gabrielle S. Kaplan

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