Pitz and Joe | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Pitz and Joe 

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PITZ AND JOE, Red Hen Productions, at Angel Island. Anyone thrust into the position of caretaker will identify with Dominique Cieri's autobiographical play about a brain-damaged man and his sister. And anyone who's witnessed neurological decay will find the flashbacks from the simple, syllable-slurring Joe (Doug MacKechnie) to his nimble, gifted former self heartrending, and the unsentimental devotion of Pitz (Ann Followill) acutely recognizable. But the script's very reality does it in: Joe is a presence defined by absence, incapable of communication.

Director Greg Kolack hasn't made this the funereal affair you might expect: the irrepressible Joe is still charismatic. And both actors are impressively, consistently committed--a must, as they comprise the entire cast of a longish intermissionless show--bringing a warm, fragile stillness to strong portrayals. Robert A. Knuth's lighting and basement-bedroom set are perfect down to the wan blue glow filtered in through half-buried windows. And the climactic, borderline mawkish articulation of the play's theme--"Do you forgive me for wanting you to die?" "Do you forgive me for wanting to live?"--is nevertheless justified and moving.

Ultimately, though, the play centers around a memory of a memory--Cieri's shorthand back story paints only the faintest picture of the undamaged Joe as the narrative builds toward body-blow revelations you see coming a mile away. While half the resulting frustration seems intended and appropriate, the other half is just frustrating.

--Brian Nemtusak

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