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In this adaptation laden with vernacular speech and irony, Jose Rivera generally flattens and cheapens Pedro Calderon de la Barca's 17th-century masterpiece Life Is a Dream. Both the romantic leads in this Greasy Joan & Co. production overact but in different styles, creating an emotional hole at the show's center. But the core of Calderon's feverish tale--about a crazed young prince imprisoned since birth because his horoscope predicted he'd become a tyrant--is captivating in the hands of director Julianne Ehre and her sophisticated supporting cast. Kevin Depinet's lushly decrepit set, with a red velvet throne shoved in the corner of a stone room where a tower of dirt reaches nearly to the ceiling, restores much of Calderon's gritty lyricism. --Justin Hayford a Through 5/20: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 312-902-1500, $20, $30 Sun 4/22 (includes postshow reception with the playwright at Goose Island, 1800 N. Clybourn).


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