The Circle Game | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Circle Game 

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The Circle Game, Nectar Productions, at the Harrison Street Cooperative of Performing & Fine Arts. This chaotic one-hour program of two plays tells the story of ethnic hatred in the former Yugoslavia, but so haphazardly that one is likely to leave feeling more confused than enlightened. Jeff Helgeson's Full Circle covers the low points of 1,000 years of Serb-Croat-Muslim conflict. Under Kym Crawford's awkward direction, the actors stiffly intone a list of facts peppered with banal axioms, like "A place of departure is a place of return." The point seems to be that the present violence is based in past violence, but Helgeson provides little emotional or political context and no thoughts on breaking the cycle. The events are usually related with a sonorous seriousness, sometimes too literally--one character's knees buckle when she says, "Rome fell."

The first play bleeds without warning into the second, Sarajevo Suite, written and directed by Crawford. This one is about a Serbian family celebrating a son's birthday in the midst of the horrific 1992 Bosnian war. Crawford's play is messy and rambling too, but it has heart. Radica Radovic is affecting and true as an amnesiac who suddenly remembers that most of her family is gone. And the different backgrounds of the family and friends (one is a Muslim, one a nationalistic Serb) provide some insight into what perpetuates war.

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