Tattoo | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


TATTOO, Trap Door Theatre. Mrs. Wucht has allergies and scratches herself and wears a respiratory mask at all times. Younger daughter Lulu slashes herself with scissors and, for an after-school hobby, works as a prostitute. Elder daughter Anita is going to marry the local florist's assistant--but will he still be willing when he learns that the child she carries may have been fathered by Mr. Wucht?

Tattoo, translated for this Trap Door production from Dea Loher's German play, is "written in free verse without punctuation or stage directions, leaving it open to multiple interpretations," says a program insert. The script also offers minimal clues to continuity or characterization. Director Michael Hoffman has compounded the play's overintellectual approach to an emotionally charged topic by presenting Mr. Wucht in Nosferatu drag, tarting up the daughters in Kewpie-doll clown faces, and bridging each scene change with mockingly serene loony-tunes music.

Since the actors are left with no resources with which to create whole human personalities, they have no choice but to pull out their bag of interpretive tricks: grotesque facial expressions, artificial phrasing, random bursts of loud, intense emotion. Viewers are likewise stranded with nothing to engage them but Loher's assertion that incest makes for unhappy families--a point we would readily have granted without sitting through this academic exercise in post-Artaudian invention.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/NC.

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