Wasp | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


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WASP, Aardvark, at Voltaire. In the great tradition of Jerry Lewis, Steve Martin isn't content to be funny; he wants to be an artist. And like Lewis before him, the more artistic he gets, the more he stinks. This is more true of his plays than his movies. The title alone of his best-known play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, reeks of middlebrow pretensions.

Which is why the best moments in the 1994 Wasp, Martin's absurdist attack on dysfunctional suburban family life in the 50s, are the silliest ones. As when the hopelessly self-involved teenager Sis daydreams during choir practice about being a castrato. Or when the emasculated son laughs anxiously at everything his father says. The worst moments are those when Martin breaks the flow of the comedy for long, supposedly meaningful monologues about the emptiness of the white-bread life circa 1955--territory better covered by real playwrights like Edward Albee and Eugene Ionesco.

Ann Filmer's clear, intelligent direction underplays the gassier parts of Martin's opus while milking the comic bits for every laugh they can get. The result is a production much more charming and entertaining than it has any right to be. --Jack Helbig


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