Simple Jim and His Four Fabulous Friends | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Simple Jim and His Four Fabulous Friends 

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Lifeline Theatre's deceptively simple fable about a deceptively simple Forrest Gump type who undertakes a hero's journey and dramatically alters the lives of everyone around him has undergone a minor face-lift since its premiere almost three years ago. Pacing and flow have been subtly enhanced: the cast stay in character the entire time, for example, avoiding the expository time-outs that occasionally threw the original production off track. But Eric Lane Barnes's script remains impossibly smart: even when he's drawing upon complex archetypes from myths and fairy tales to chart his protagonist's spiritual awakening, his simple messages--about fellowship, humility, and staying true to one's beliefs--ring loud and clear. The play's greatest calling card, however, is its loose, billowy structure, meant to incorporate audience suggestions--a big draw for the kids. Rebecca Hamlin's terrific scenic design gives the illusion of perpetual motion and provides the perfect backdrop for the three cast members' generous, larger-than-life performances: together Vance Smith, Shole Milos, and Nancy Jane Nelson give this world a thousand different bold and brilliant hues. Storefront Theater, Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, 66 E. Randolph, 312-742-8497. Through March 3: Saturdays-Sundays, 1 PM. $5.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Suzanne Plunkett.

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