Martyr Rampage | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Martyr Rampage 

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Halcyone Productions, at Zebra Crossing Theatre.

Since these two one-acts were written by Sue Cargill, a stand-up comic and cartoonist, it's tempting to spy out glib situational humor--and there are cheap laughs here that damage credibility. But Julie Cohen's staging, wise to the pain behind the one-liners, deepens the material at every turn.

The second play is a tender look at a marriage propped up as much by fear as love. Feeling Sorry for Roman Polanski contrasts a bubbly, kindly greeting-card clerk and movie enthusiast (who commiserates with the title child molester) with her husband, a glumly defensive telemarketer and singing-telegram messenger. Initially torn up over the old lady he frightened to death in his gorilla outfit, he comes to believe that her snotty nephew, who put in the order, set him up. Cargill sometimes gets lost in plot quibbles, but she sensitively and believably establishes the couple's contrasting personalities (even in their dreams) and conveys even more eloquently their dependence on each other. Maryellen Keevers and Robb Patterson play these two right down to the cells.

The opener, Nova Scotia, is more obvious. A couple who are breaking up are packing up, with the usual easy recriminations and book throwing. They just don't get along--he's spiritual, precise, and maudlin, and she's materialistic, hyperactive, and bitter--but there's too much love left for them to give up their games. Cargill can't quite convince us that what's so predictable is also plausible. But this contentious duo, superbly acted by Brian Baker (who plays nice naturally) and Seana Galvin (who slings insults like a short-order cook), are cartoons you could care about.

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