Sunshine and Play | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Sunshine and Play 

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SUNSHINE and PLAY, Barclay Theatre, at Strawdog Theatre. Programming is not one of the things director Wilson Alexander Aguilar does well. Pairing Samuel Beckett's bleak, minimalist Play with William Mastrosimone's sloppy, self-indulgent slice of life Sunshine is like mixing scotch and V-8. It doesn't help matters that Aguilar can't seem to shake a funereal pace throughout Mastrosimone's 90-minute adolescent fantasy, about an abused stripper who rescues a paramedic from his embittered and loveless existence: playwright and director alike seem content to let their characters sit around and chat most of the evening. Even an ingeniously understated performance by Helen Manasses as the eponymous stripper can't make up for the script's crushing predictability.

With Beckett, however, Aguilar shows he's got some chops. Tackling one of the playwright's least successful works--three talking heads speak in fragments about the trauma of past infidelities--Aguilar places enormous and effective constraints on his actors: they're not allowed to move, look at one another, or even make facial expressions. At times the severity of this approach turns Beckett's poetry into a drone, but by and large this Play is a craftily orchestrated three-part recitation that hovers on the brink of intelligibility, much as Beckett would have wished. --Justin Hayford

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