The History of Bowling | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The History of Bowling 

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It's easy to sentimentalize the disabled. The mainstream world actually encourages it, with Jerry Lewis's lachrymose telethons and those sickeningly sweet after-school specials that try oh so hard to show that "they" are just like the rest of "us," only more so. Mike Ervin's perverse comedy--first produced last year at Victory Gardens and now revived at the same theater with the same director, Susan Nussbaum, and most of the original cast--breaks through all of the pity, denial, and insincerity. In this witty full-length play he gives us three very different disabled students--a quadriplegic, a cane-carrying deaf and blind kid, and a self-pitying epileptic woman--and then in one finely wrought scene after another he undermines all expectations. The deaf and blind student is a cad and a con man, perfectly capable of taking all of his roommate's money in a game of cards and of sleeping with the guy's girlfriend. Ervin's hero, the wheelchair-bound Chuck, played with sensitivity and strength by Robert Ness, is neither heroic nor pitiable. Rather he is by turns likable and pissy, warm and prickly, crabby and comforting to the woman who reaches out to him. In fact, Ervin's play is filled with similarly flawed, well-rounded characters. Victory Gardens Theater, first-floor studio, 2257 N. Lincoln, 773-871-3000. Through November 19: Fridays, 8:30 PM; Saturdays, 5:30 and 9 PM; Sundays, 3:30 PM; no show Friday, October 27. $22. Note: The show on Friday, November 3, is captioned and sign interpreted; the 5:30 PM show on Saturday, November 4, is captioned; the 5:30 PM show on Saturday, October 28, and the show on Sunday, November 12, feature audio description. Call 773-871-3000 or TTY 773-871-0682 for tickets to these Access Project performances.

--Jack Helbig

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

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