Seventy Scenes of Halloween | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Seventy Scenes of Halloween 

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Seventy Scenes of Halloween, Broutil & Frothingham Productions, at the Theatre Building Chicago. Jeffrey Jones's 1980 play can be seen as either a subtle exploration of contemporary relationships or an overly coy bit of writerly masturbation, depending on how well it's produced and how generous one wants to be. This quintessential game-playing postmodern playwright employs a myriad of tricks--withholding information, repeating scenes with subtle variations, breaking rules of conventional narrative, providing contradictory information about his characters--to keep the audience in the dark about the couple at the center of this black comedy.

Another way to look at it is that Jones gives directors and actors a lot of room to interpret the script. Director Stephanie Shaw--a former cast member of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind-- treats Jones's short, fragmented scenes as if they were a series of little Neo-Futurist plays, each self-contained but possibly connected to the scenes around it. The strategy works, in part because, like all good Neo-Futurists, Shaw has a strong, subtle sense of humor. More important, she's coaxed powerful performances from her cast, playing the darker currents in Jones's play without overdoing them. The ensemble is led by a wonderfully brittle Robyn Coffin and lumbering Brian Posen, who reveals an emotional depth I'd never before suspected in this likable but sometimes shallow comic actor.

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