The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon 

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The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon, Running With Scissors, at the Griffin Theatre Company. This sprawling adaptation of Tom Spanbauer's novel deconstructing the old west is remarkably audacious. Rarely is a company's debut performance so ambitious and so self-assured. Every element of this moody, at times chilling three-act excursion into the prejudice, religious hypocrisy, and barbarism of 19th-century frontier life has been lovingly and astutely realized, from Stephanie Nelson's stunning set design to director Ann Boyd's deftly choreographed staging and expertly cast 16-member ensemble. Dale Rivera is sexually gifted half Native American Shed; the wonderfully understated James Leaming is Dellwood Barker, Shed's sometime lover and perhaps his father; and Wesley Walker offers a frighteningly brutal take on the rapist Billy Blizzard.

Timothy Hendrickson's adaptation, which echoes other late-20th-century inversions of frontier myths like Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, takes its time in following Shed's picaresque adventures, from his stint as a gigolo of sorts to his relationship with Barker to his flight from racist marauders. Clocking in at about three hours and 15 minutes, this is an eloquently written drama that alternates between creating a hypnotic sense of dread and becoming the wearying theatrical equivalent of a filibuster. The scope of Spanbauer's novel and the gravity of the issues that he and Hendrickson address justify this epic treatment, but ultimately there's more here to be admired than enjoyed.

--Adam Langer

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