Natural Affection hints at cracks in America’s postwar idyll | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Natural Affection hints at cracks in America’s postwar idyll 

Eclipse Theatre kicks off its season-long tribute to William Inge with one of his lesser works.

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Scott Dray

Eclipse Theatre kicks off its season of William Inge plays with this game attempt at one of his lesser works. Sue's life is turned upside down when the son she sent to an orphanage as a teenage mother shows up at her doorstep and topples the fragile existence she has constructed as a career woman living with a failure of a younger man who won't marry her.

Set in a modern apartment in an upscale Chicago neighborhood in 1962, Natural Affection explores aspects of infidelity, alcoholism, and latent homosexuality within an atmosphere of looming dread, suggesting cracks in America's postwar idyll. Unfortunately, the only character who conveys any of these themes as a believable person rather than a plot point is someone incidental to the action who is given only one full scene-Sue's neighbor, Vince, a drunk who knows his life has been lived to no discernible end. Everyone else is a collection of Freudian disorders rather than flesh and blood. Perhaps the feeling that none of these people belong in the same city or era, much less the same room, is intentional, but it doesn't make for convincing drama. A senseless act of violence in the last scene is like an exclamation point after a series of run-on non sequiturs.

Joanne Iwanicka's set design, which nimbly evokes the very thin walls between these neighbors, steals the show by illustrating what the overwrought words cannot. Rachel Lambert directed.   v

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