Voyaging | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Voyaging 

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This dreamy pastiche of movement, text, video, original music, and ambient noise--splashing waves, dripping water, birdsong--celebrates the life and work of Charles Darwin, in particular his travels on the HMS Beagle. Fortunately directors Stephan Mazurek of Walkabout Theater Company and Julia Rhoads of Lucky Plush Productions make little effort to elucidate the details of Darwin's thought, instead ruminating on the oddities of applying scientific theory to human beings. For the prologue the curtain is raised partway to reveal the naked legs of some 17 performers as they doff and don various pairs of shoes and boots--a clever, economical testament to the inexplicable variety of the human species. The vaudevillian "Punch & Judy" section suggests that abusive men should have died off long ago--their kids don't thrive, their wives won't sleep with them. Yet wife beaters are still with us. A rapping grave robber and a humorous voice-over on phrenology hint at the unsavory aspects of scientific inquiry in the early 19th century. Add oblique biographical vignettes and sections on men's and women's natures and the 75-minute Voyaging probably takes off in too many directions. But though it never coalesces, it does provide a gentle, good-hearted yet never sentimental meditation on the mysteries of human existence, particularly procreation. Especially fetching are the group dance sections (choreographed by Rhoads, Krenly Guzman, and the ensemble members), in particular the pseudocourtly "Social Dance" section (with fanciful costumes by Sue Haas and Lara Miller) and the evocative "Galapagos/Collecting" scene. The reach of this ambitious work exceeds its grasp, but what could be more appropriate in a piece about evolution? Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 773-722-5463. Through April 18: Friday-Saturday, 7:30 PM; Sunday, 4 PM. $20.

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