Ploughed Under: An American Songbook | Chopin Theatre | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader
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Ploughed Under: An American Songbook 

When: Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through June 9 2013
Price: $10-$25
thehousetheatre.com
Kevin O'Donnell's folk-ballad song cycle spans 600 years of American history, but musically it hardly budges an inch. Whether telling the story of star-crossed 15th-century Cree lovers, unheralded female soldiers of the American Revolution, or folk icons like John Henry and Casey Jones, O'Donnell funnels somber melodies through numbingly similar tempos; after 20 minutes of this nearly two-hour premiere for House Theatre, you've heard most everything you're going to hear, twice. Six vocalists sing mostly in full-voiced unison, letting enthusiasm stand in for musicianship, and the four-piece band's arrangements are largely built around indistinct strumming. Most problematically, O'Donnell's lyrics reduce the ethical muck of Americana to easy moral lessons; listeners always know exactly where their sympathies should lie. —Justin Hayford

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