Savage in Limbo | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Savage in Limbo 

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Savage in Limbo, Infamous Commonwealth Theatre, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Any "subtext" in John Patrick Shanley's plays comes out in the shouting. This 1984 one-act, his most characteristic comedy, inventories the frustrations of denizens of a dead-end Bronx bar. Desperate for any illusion of change, they've reached the terrible age of 32 with little to show for it. "Your life sucks!" is a cry for help they deliver to themselves as much as to one another.

The title character, Denise Savage, is a virgin who feels she held out too long and now fears that everything worth having will come too late or not at all. Her buxom rival, Linda, is a baby maker whose current boyfriend, cocky Tony, has developed a taste for "ugly" girls who lecture him about Soviet Russia. April, who never got further than a bar stool on her path to being a nun, succumbs to a Christmas-fueled depression that forces the protective barkeep, Murk, to dress as Santa Claus and cheer her up for another drink.

A little of this thirtysomething angst goes a long way, and director Laura Ciresi wisely confines it to 75 corrosive minutes. Sympathizing with every trap that snags these souls, her solid revival nevertheless never stumbles over the sentiment or the silliness. Jen Hines's suffocating Savage, Jenn Remke's hangdog April, Anthony Tournis's confused Tony, and Genevieve Hurst's needy Linda seem capable of anything. As the bartender, Craig C. Thompson is mostly angry--reason enough to exist in a Shanley farce.

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