This Can't Be Love | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

This Can't Be Love 

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In this engagingly exotic musical revue, part of Bailiwick Repertory's gay- and lesbian-oriented 1992 Pride Performance Series, Craig Figtree puts a strange but beautiful spin on the gay entertainment tradition of female impersonation. Rather than dressing up as a woman to lip-synch classic torch songs by the likes of Rodgers and Hart, Kern and Wodehouse, Cole Porter, and Harold Arlen, Figtree sings the songs in a soft, breathy baritone while manipulating a collection of beautifully constructed, gorgeously garbed female puppets. Most of Figtree's diminutive divas are around three feet tall--these torch singers can not only sit on a piano but walk around on top of it. With their angular figures, Modigliani faces, and extravagant array of gowns, turbans, feathers, and furs, the miniature mannequins seem to have stepped right out of a series of Erte prints; their exquisitely expressive gestural interpretations of Figtree's delicate supper-club phrasing create some startling illusions, and Figtree's loving handson interaction with the puppets makes it seem that he's partnering, rather than operating, them. Though Figtree could afford to be less restrained vocally, his choice of material is in excellent (if rarefied) taste; and pianist Patricia Barber's splendid accompaniment adds a great deal to the show. Bailiwick Repertory, June 15 and 16 (Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont, 327-5252). Monday and Tuesday, 8 PM. $15 suggested donation; $55 for tickets to six of the ten productions in the Pride Performance Series; $80 for tickets to all ten productions.

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