Steve Martin's Zig-Zag Woman & Other Puzzles | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Steve Martin's Zig-Zag Woman & Other Puzzles 

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Steve Martin's Zig-Zag Woman & Other Puzzles, Safe Harbor Productions, at Live Bait Theater. The best part of this evening of five one-acts is the stuff that happens between them. Jim Carlson is great as the increasingly obsessive Joey, who communicates with an ex-girlfriend in a running gag that bridges the plays, and the ensemble's stylish scene changes exhibit a verve that would be welcome in the rest of the show.

As it is, these one-acts, selected by director Joey Honsa, suffer from shallowly portrayed characters, lackluster pacing, and dull stagings. The best of the bunch is Bob Krakower's 4 A.M., in which two people in a diner overthink their situation, refuse to take a chance, and miss out on the opportunity to meet their perfect match despite the efforts of a waiter and a drunk fellow customer. Here Carlson, Greg Gion, Mary Buckley, and Todd Milliner have a pleasant synergy, and the characters are convincingly drawn. But both Steven Dietz's After You and Roger Cornish's Mental Reservation are sluggish. And though Mayo Simon's At Sea highlights Gion's talents, Buckley does little to keep the play afloat.

Scenes from Steve Martin's Zig-Zag Woman have been interspersed among the other one-acts, a choice that undermines this surreal piece about a lonely woman who tries to get a man's attention by dividing her body into three parts. The performance lacks momentum, and Milliner is the only actor able to wring some laughs from Martin's script.

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