The Soul's Awakening | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Soul's Awakening 

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Written on the eve of World War I yet only now receiving its U.S. premiere, philosopher Rudolf Steiner's "mystery drama" is not for the casual playgoer. But those whose taste for metaphysical epic theater has been whetted by shows like Angels in America might find Steiner's work illuminating, whatever they think of notions like karma and reincarnation. The last of four plays by the Austrian-born founder of the Anthroposophical Society, The Soul's Awakening is a five-hour meditation on humanity's quest for a higher consciousness lost over millennia of social evolution; its characters visit past lives in order to understand their present existence, dramatizing the trials people must undergo as they wrestle with their destinies. Staged by Christopher Marcus, an alumnus of Steiner's Goetheanum in Switzerland, this touring production emphasizes visual spectacle--Steiner was keen on the dreamlike use of color and shape to reflect inner life--and the actors are grounded in eurythmy, a system of gesture and movement employed to express the sound as well as the sense of a text. This performance by London's Portal Productions, founded by onetime Hollywood child actor Marke Levene to present theater with a spiritual dimension, is a rare opportunity to experience the vision of an important but unappreciated forerunner of much of today's experimental theater and performance art as well as one of the major figures of early-20th-century mysticism. Harold Washington Library Center, auditorium, 400 S. State, 902-1500. March 10 through 12: Friday-Sunday, 3 to 10:30 PM (includes two intermissions and a 75-minute dinner break). $25-$65; $15 extra for preordered box dinners. The performances are augmented by a conference with lectures on such topics as "Karmic Relationships and Deeds of Compassion"; for information on the conference, call 248-5606.

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