Sheila: Ex Libris | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Sheila: Ex Libris 

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Sheila: Ex Libris, at the Organic Theater Company Greenhouse, South Hall.

Always on the lookout for a good gimmick, the folks who brought you Sheila's Giant Wall of Plot Twists now present Ex Libris, an evening's worth of improvisation based on suggestions culled from a cartful of books. This premise isn't half bad. Asking audiences to recommend kinds of books--reference, art, banned, etc--and then flipping through them for ideas sure beats the pants off the old-fashioned way: Can we have a place? A toilet! A profession? Prostitute! Gynecologist! Something you like to do in the privacy of your own home?...

I have faith that in about four months Sheila will have worked out all the kinks in their new show. But in the meantime audiences are the subjects of Sheila's mad improv experiment. Right now, the results are not very pretty.

The best improvisations I saw were based on paintings by Norman Rockwell, yet Sheila doesn't come close to mining the potential of this notorious propagandist. The worst bits seemed mere party games--a weird word is taken from the dictionary, three improvisations illustrate possible meanings for the word, and we guess which definition is correct. This isn't yet the kind of theater you'd want to pay real money to see.

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