Matches in the Dark | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Matches in the Dark 

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There's a fine theatrical intelligence on display in these two programs, a retrospective of the Albany Park Theater Project's four years. Certainly much of the artistry belongs to David Feiner and Laura Wiley, the Yale-trained couple who created this vehicle for adolescents to talk about their lives and learn how to translate them to the stage. But no small part belongs to the young actors, whose commitment to one another's stories communicates nothing less than the essence of theatrical truth. Don't confuse these programs of one-acts with high school plays: program A includes "Mr. Edwards," a portrait of a remarkable teacher through the eyes of his students skillfully woven together with the music he taught, and a virtual epic, "Mama Lisa," centered around the matriarch of a family that emigrates from Mexico to the United States. Directors Feiner and Wiley inject humor of all kinds, including references to movie musicals and asides to the audience, to assure that "Mama Lisa" is moving rather than merely earnest, and they retain long scenes in Spanish performed so clearly that English speakers can't miss the point: that we can understand more about other cultures than we think. Perhaps most exciting is "Jihad," which begins with three young Arab-American men plotting a purchase and goes on to explode every stereotype about Muslims, again with humor as well as passion. If you can't kvell over these young people and all they've done and overcome to present this work, you might want to consider a heart transplant. Eugene Field Park, 5100 N. Ridgeway, 773-866-0875. Through June 3: program A plays Fridays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM; program B plays Thursdays at 6:30 PM and Saturdays at 8 PM. There are no shows May 24 through 27. $5 or "pay what you can"; reservations strongly encouraged. Children under ten will not be admitted due to "mature themes."

--Kelly Kleiman

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