The Hunchback Variations | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Hunchback Variations 

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Theater Oobleck playwright Mickle Maher is a master at creating complex, paradoxical works that encompass their own contradictions. While his comedies leave a somber aftertaste, his forays into satire with a serious edge are gut-bustingly funny. His translation-adaptation of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, produced last season by Court Theatre and Redmoon, tossed out much of the original's structure and content yet seemed truer to its sublime romanticism than many slavishly faithful productions. In The Hunchback Variations Maher mocks academic examinations of the creative process even as he engages in a complicated deconstruction of creativity. The play is structured as a series of variations on two panelists' opening remarks at a conference devoted to a single enigmatic sound cue in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. The panelists--Beethoven and Quasimodo--drone on in an exaggeratedly dry manner; neither seems bothered that deafness makes them unfit to comment on what kind of sound fulfills Chekhov's intention. Interwoven with a myriad of comic lines is a thoughtful discussion of the difficulty of collaboration, the role that failure plays in innovation, and the toll it takes on artists. Maher and Colm O'Reilly reprise their roles in a revival of this 2001 work. Through 4/2: Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 10:30 PM. Sun 4/10 only, 6:30 PM. Studio 3, $15.

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