Tale/Spin | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Tale/Spin 

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TALE/SPIN, Curious Theatre Branch. "I'll be writing this forever," sighs Michael Martin during the opening moments of this intensely personal monologue, which serves as the second half and centerpiece of this group show. Much has happened since the Great Beast Theater cofounder's initial staging of his 2002 work The Bearer--including a move to New Orleans, two late-night muggings, and his purchase of a pawnshop pistol--and all these events dovetail neatly in the latest installment of his sprawling work in progress, now subtitled "The New Piece." As a solo performer Martin delights in placing obstacles in his own path: he caresses the gun but never fires it, recounts his most visceral sexual experiences without a hint of physicality, beguiles his audience without addressing it directly. The last chapter, thankfully, has yet to be written--here's hoping Martin won't ever get beyond cataloging where he's been to figuring out where he's going.

Jillian Erickson, who closes the evening's first half with a tempestuous monologue by Paige McLemore, is the anti-Martin. Flailing her arms and eyeballing everyone in the audience, she brings a wild energy to the playwright's rhetorical musings on "all-consuming art envy." But her performance is needlessly confrontational; both she and McLemore could stand to find a middle ground between soft curves and jutting corners. On the evening I attended, performance poet Jackie Wolk complemented Erickson's and Martin's ruminations on rebirth and impotence with a quick recap of her own pregnancy. It should be interesting to see how the show's overarching theme of "the difficulties of spinning Art from Life" mutates when Judith Harding and Barrie Cole step into the opening slot over the next two weeks.

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