Jenny Magnus stays behind the scenes of the charmingly absurd (Not) Another Day | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Jenny Magnus stays behind the scenes of the charmingly absurd (Not) Another Day 

The Curious Theatre Branch cofounder's latest puts the "opera" in soap opera.

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Jeffrey Bivens

Jenny Magnus, who's spearheaded the invaluable Curious Theatre Branch for 30 years, has always performed in her own plays. Now she takes a wide turn with her new 75-minute "non-opera," not only staying offstage but crafting a fractured, protean, winningly guileless evening quite unlike anything she's created before.

Superficially, the piece is about the Writer (Vicki Walden), who's struggling to write her way out of the current episode of her soap opera, Another Day. She's killed off the show's leading man, Bobby Jinx (Beau O'Reilly), but his shady contract stipulates he can never be fired. So she's dead-ended at the funeral episode (shown repeatedly on several television screens), with Jinx immobilized in a coffin and the rest of the cast doomed to utter the same dialogue over and over as they await a new script. Meanwhile the real-life Jinx sits far upstage, musically meditating on his professional inertia: "It's interesting to play no­- thing. . . . It gives you time to think."

It's a charming bit of absurdism, sung in an intentionally artless vernacular with melodies that often cling to single notes. But Magnus, as is her wont, digs for deeper veins, exploring the debilitating compulsion to press on when no useful ideas or guiding principles are in sight. While both the singing and the staging felt hesitant on opening night, the material succinctly probes particularly unsettling existential fears.   v

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