Old Man in a Baseball Cap | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Old Man in a Baseball Cap 

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Spalding Gray's greatest contribution to the world of solo performance may not be his own work--his tiresome new Morning, Noon and Night is merely an opportunity to brag about his kids--but the workshops he holds from time to time on storytelling and techniques for unleashing creativity. Fred Rochlin, a retired architect, attended one in Los Angeles and began turning his old war stories--he was a flight navigator during World War II--into monologue material. The resulting reminiscences about the experiences of a young man in Europe are at once witty and clear-eyed, charming and horrifying. Not all of Rochlin's tales are about the war: in the most moving story he describes helping a medic save the life of a pregnant Italian peasant. And when he does discuss the war, he never glamorizes it or makes himself or his cohorts into heroes. In fact, Rochlin talks about the time he helped bomb a Hungarian village of no strategic importance just because someone had made a mistake at headquarters and it was impossible to get back to base with a full load of bombs. Though he's been performing professionally only for the last six years, this 75-year-old is a powerful storyteller with a compelling stage presence. There's hope for us all: it seems you can teach an old dog new tricks. North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300. September 17 and 18: Friday-Saturday, 7:30 PM. $25. --Jack Helbig

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