Savage/Love | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Savage/Love 

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SAVAGE/LOVE, Moving Dock Theatre Company and Clock Productions, at the National Pastime Theater. A collaboration between Sam Shepard and Open Theater founder Joseph Chaikin, this 1979 collection of short poetic monologues (originally performed solo by Chaikin) is skillfully reimagined by director Dawn Arnold as a choreo-poem for an ensemble of seven.

The script holds up fairly well as a meditation on the inchoate nature of longing, jealousy, and romantic fixations. Arnold's interpolations (including the witty lip-synching of dialogue between Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic and other updated pop cultural references) blow some of the dust off the self-conscious Me Decade language. And the ensemble's physical work is admirably synchronized, subtle, and persuasive--particularly in a segment where they play commuters on a bumpy bus ride. Arnold's decision to cast six women and one man gives a different perspective to some of the pieces. In "Babble (I)" and "Babble (II)," in which a stammering lover tries desperately to explain herself, we see that the inability to discuss one's feelings isn't an exclusively male problem.

The constant changes in wardrobe (assembled by Tiffany Liveris from the Betsey Johnson line) are eye-catching but tend to distract from the text by the evening's end, and the cast lapse into rote recitations and gestures from time to time. But the show does remind us that, for all the bloat of Shepard's more recent efforts, he can create touching gems in miniature.

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