Letters/X | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


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LETTERS/X, GroundUp Theatre, at the Hungry Brain. Cupid sends his arrow through lovers' hearts--and right back out again in GroundUp Theatre's breezy, cabaret-style "tribute" to Valentine's Day, staged in a bar. Anthony Roberts's script, created from a stack of real-life breakup notes collected by company members Sabrina Lloyd and Molly Neylan, zeroes in on cruel and unusual punishments. The more perfunctory and heartless the better. On the night I attended, a dramatic reading of a missive canceling a wedding on two weeks' notice ("I feel like I'm doing the right thing by telling you now...instead of later") elicited sympathetic howls. In fact the whole 45-minute affair rides on a kind of reverse empathy: if it wasn't done to you, you did it to someone else.

Roberts, Lloyd, Neylan, and the rest of the cast tailor their performances to the off-kilter sources; high heels and tuxedo jackets add an air of formality, but the vignettes have a staccato rhythm and the performers demonstrate a giddy, highly infectious enthusiasm. Letters/X has a few soft spots: during the otherwise excellent opening number, Roberts rhymes "stuff you sent" with "truculent," and a running joke based on object mime leads the cast astray. Still, the show proves a better coping mechanism than buying flowers and chocolates for yourself: it may not mend a broken heart, but it's right up there with makeup sex.

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