Splintered | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


Splintered, Bailiwick Repertory. Taken separately, the four one-acts that director Jeremy B. Cohen has assembled here are all rather slight and problematic works by writers who've penned better. But presented together in this seamless, intelligently directed evening, they represent an eloquent and moving depiction of the troublesome, often solitary world of sex in the alienated 90s.

Lanford Wilson's monologue "The Moonshot Tape," concerning a successful short-story writer's revenge for the sexual abuse she suffered, is so shocking it challenges credibility. But Peggy Dunne's letter-perfect delivery converts overwritten prose into compelling theater. Understated performances in Craig Lucas's "Bad Dream" rescue this familiar look at an HIV-positive man and his loving but fearful partner. Even "Pagan Day," Sally Nemeth's poetic but underdeveloped riff on control games and gender ambiguities, casts a hypnotic spell under Cohen's subtle and moody direction, as two women subtract layers of clothing as they add layers of significance to their surreal narrative.

Oddly, the most effective effort is "Scraped," a chilling early work by Scott McPherson, who wrote the much-lauded if shallow Marvin's Room. Focusing on the young victim of a hate crime, it's scanty at best in terms of character development, but the bluntness and underlying honesty of the writing pack a surprising wallop. Just like the rest of the evening.

--Adam Langer

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