The Shoemakers | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Shoemakers 

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The Shoemakers, Trap Door Theatre. Never performed or published during the playwright's lifetime, Stanislaw I. Witkiewicz's 1934 parable in three scenes tackles, in part, the subjects of revolution, decadence, and materialism. Trap Door's staging--its fourth of "Witkacy," as the Polish writer-philosopher was known--is dense, surreal, slyly self-referential, and gleefully bizarre.

Directed by Beata Pilch and Sean Marlow with great energy and inventiveness, this 90-minute show will probably frustrate those looking for bite-size political statements or simple character motivations. But for dedicated fans of Witkiewicz's work or for those new to his singular dystopian vision (think of a Brecht play done as an early John Waters flick), the production offers many rewards. Pilch plays the vampiric Duchess with a throaty laugh and sinuous physicality. Wesley Walker as Sajetan--the shoemakers' ringleader--is enraged and confused in equal measure as he's transformed from a beleaguered serf into an unwilling, unhappy (and apparently unkillable) representative of the postrevolution leisure class. Suggestions of the rise of fascism run throughout the show: Sajetan's son is a member of the thuggish "Vigilant Youth," and Marlow plays a Hitler-esque "prosecuting attorney" appropriately named Scurvy.

The small Trap Door space has been effectively utilized, particularly by Richard Norwood, whose lighting design runs from forbidding shadows to swirling candy-colored disco effects. And Pilch and Imma Curl's costume designs are inspired, chockablock with cunning visual gags.

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