The Seldoms | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Seldoms 

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The Romantic idea of the artist as a closed but chaotic system permeates the Seldoms' new hour-long work, Recluse. Begun during a residency that artistic director Carrie Hanson and assistant artistic director Doug Stapleton held at the pastoral Ragdale Foundation in February, the piece is far from quiet, instead envisioning the artistic process as "vigorous and violent," in Stapleton's words. The first section, a duet set to texts on nature by Thoreau and Goethe among other writers, is fairly measured and lyrical, but when four wood nymphs show up in the second section, set to crashing organ chords and percussion, all hell breaks loose. The final section abandons nature for art, focusing on the painting Deposition/Entombment by the notoriously reclusive and neurotic 15th-century painter Pontormo. Nothing's more static than death, but this restless Renaissance work is full of writhing, tumbling human forms. By the end of the piece, Thoreau's introductory comment in Walden--"I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well"--comes to seem not so much mildly humorous as frighteningly prescient about the solipsism of artists. Lara Miller's complicated, ingenious costumes add visual texture, especially one rough tunic with a wide, twisted belt that unfolds into a train/skirt. Opens Thu 5/12, 7:30 PM. Through 5/15: Fri 7:30 PM, Sat-Sun 2 PM, Hamlin Park field house, second floor, 3035 N. Hoyne, 312-328-0303, $12-$20. Then Sun 6/5, 2 PM, Ragdale Foundation, 1260 Green Bay Rd., Lake Forest, 847-234-1063, ext. 205, $40 (ticket sales benefit the foundation).

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