Lion in the Streets | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Lion in the Streets 

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Lion in the Streets, Concrete Stage Company, at Profiles Theatre. Unrelenting in its pace and emotional intensity, Judith Thompson's surreal nightmare about real and imagined demons in an unnamed Canadian city is a grueling workout. Concrete Stage director Jordan Atkins proves himself up to the task, giving the interactions between Isobel--the ghost of a murdered child--and the desperate souls she encounters a leonine ferocity. Backed by percussionist Joshua A. Pierce's propulsive score on a bleak, graffiti-covered stage, the actors blaze through Isobel's futile attempts to find comfort from misfits with stories almost as miserable as hers--a cancer patient who longs to die, a young rape victim who finds herself victimized once again, a woman with cerebral palsy whose frank accounts of her sexual escapades lead a shocked journalist to beat her senseless, a mother whose desperate self-humiliation cannot prevent her husband's shameless infidelity.

Much of the action and pacing here is dead-on. And several of Atkins's young performers--including Kara Wenham as Isobel and Todd Kreisman as seven thwarted characters--are quite effective. But a handful of others can't make this difficult drama resonate, often resorting to classroom histrionics. Thompson's ambitious but sometimes episodic 30-character play pummels the audience with its depictions of modern urban misery; a more seasoned and versatile cast, however, might have found more of the humor and subtlety beneath the anguish. --Adam Langer

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