The House on the Lake by the Woods near the Ocean | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The House on the Lake by the Woods near the Ocean 

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THE HOUSE ON THE LAKE BY THE WOODS NEAR THE OCEAN, Curious Theatre Branch, at the Lunar Cabaret. Beau O'Reilly is a superb solo performer who can turn every pause and stutter into a dramatic moment. In his own hands even his weakest material can seem the work of an Olympian intellect. The downside is that you can never tell how much of an O'Reilly story's power comes from the actor and how much from the writer.

Which is a shame, because over the years he's developed into a writer of considerable wit and facility. The main virtue of Curious Theatre Branch's current stage adaptation of an O'Reilly short story is that it takes O'Reilly the performer out of the equation (he's currently touring in Germany), parceling out his words to three actors, none of whom speak with his trademark gusto, intensity, and hip hamminess.

What we discover is that this touching magical realist story, about a woman who comes to grips with the failure of her marriage, doesn't really need an actor willing to pull out all the stops to make it soar. All it needs are performers like KellyAnn Corcoran, Paul Leisen, and SueAnn Jewers who are willing to speak their lines clearly, with a minimum of muss and fuss, and a director like Eric Ziegenhagen who won't junk up the production with a lot of extraneous props, lights, and sound cues. You end up with a show as good as--or better than--anything O'Reilly's Lefty Fizzle could have done on his own. --Jack Helbig

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