Playback Theatre | Piven Theatre | Improv/Sketch | Chicago Reader
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Playback Theatre 

When: Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Sept. 20 2009
Price: $15
Developed in the 1970s, the Playback Theatre method, in which participants tell stories from their lives and see them improvised on the spot, has spread across the globe, allowing aborigines to cope with substance abuse, Swiss accountants to dialogue about corporate restructuring--and, in the Piven Performance Lab's current iteration, audiences to share heartfelt tales of Internet dating. Director Scott Shallenbarger's ensemble brims with an air of psychological well-being that discourages all but the most sitcom-ready anecdotes. At the show I attended, we sat in puckered silence at Shallenbarger's request for a "darker" tale--which was probably for the best, since the cast's after-school-special cheeriness made them seem incapable of coping with unwholesome material. Just give them first dates on Navy Pier and they can spread on the cute, like mayo on white bread. --Keith Griffith

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