The Shawl and Icarus's Mother | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Shawl and Icarus's Mother 

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ClothMother Productions, at Cafe Voltaire.

David Mamet's 1985 one-act The Shawl might have been written for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. A psychological mystery about a mind reader who may be a charlatan, the four-scene drama depicts his effort to help an heiress reclaim her fortune--or swindle her out of it--while trying to protect, or disconnect, his affair with a male hustler. Using cryptic, allusive, often fragmented dialogue the same way Hitchcock used disorienting camera angles, Mamet weaves a fascinating web of suspense. But the cast of Matthew Dylan Wilson's staging for ClothMother Productions is too inexperienced to bring out the script's strangled poetry and atmosphere of anxiety. Kirk Anderson as the psychic tends to rush his lines, obscuring their implications, while Laura Ruth is simply too young and warm to convey the icy complexity of the client/victim; and John Ferrick's petulant, white-bread portrayal of the dangerous yet pathetic rough-trade boyfriend is completely off the mark.

For its debut ClothMother has paired The Shawl with Icarus's Mother, which also explores language's capacity for deception. But where The Shawl's plot holds our interest when the acting falls short, this 1965 Sam Shepard shortie is a pure mood piece. Depicting the mischievous, finally horrifying mind games played by adolescents at a Fourth of July beach party, it can be a stunning study in emotional dynamics or an exercise that goes nowhere, as it is here. Maria Earman's staging is suffused with darkness and dread from the beginning, so the show has nowhere to go. A major problem is another shallow performance from Ferrick, playing a youth whose malevolent fantasies dampen his pals' pleasure.

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


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