The Soul Cages | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Soul Cages 

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THE SOUL CAGES, Tireswing Theatre, at the Loop Theater. Adapting a folktale is tricky. While a simple story can provide a good read, good theater relies on conflict, character development, and strong relationships. Tami Zimmerman Henry's adaptation of Thomas Crofton Croker's story of a fisherman who befriends a Merrow--the merman Coomara--is respectable but not inspiring.

Henry's able direction keeps the production lively and fluid, however, thanks in part to an efficient set (uncredited) with a slide and some well-placed holes that allow characters to move quickly between upper-level scenes on land and underwater scenes below. The story's progression is clear and orderly, and the fisherman and his wife (MacArthur Stine and Susan Shimer) are well-drawn characters with a sweet, believable relationship. Galen Dalton-Colley provides lilting Irish fiddle music.

However, Henry misses out on some great dark material. She fails to explore the lonely Merrow's need for human companionship--which might have explained his desire to keep sailor souls as pets. And the sense of danger when Coomara discovers that he's been betrayed fizzles out with a run-of-the-mill chase scene and a tacked-on "love triumphs over all" conclusion. Add some inconsistent brogues and precious humor ("I'd be smothered and choked by the water, to say nothin' about bein' drowned!"), and the result is half-boiled corned beef.

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