Winter Pageant | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Winter Pageant 

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Secular humanists and pagans need holiday cheer too, and Redmoon Theater's deliberately artless annual celebration of the winter solstice gives it to them. This year Lookingglass Theatre stalwart John Musial conceived and directs the show, and musical polymath Mark Messing heads up the four-piece band. A beleaguered mother (Meghan Strell) and her daughter (Katie Connolly) struggle to take care of seven infants despite constant power outages. (Shoshanna Utchenik's puppet babies are a little disturbing: their outsize bobble heads brought Eraserhead to mind, and an observant tyke behind me exclaimed of one puppet, "Its head is falling off!" Fortunately no decapitation actually occurred.) Apparently in homage to Dario Fo's anarchic political farces, the family undergoes an epic journey through the bureaucracy in order to get electricity restored and speaks mostly in pidgin Italian. Musial skillfully integrates various youth outreach groups--Redmoon's Dramagirls and Children's Company plus the Power Girls and Khmer Angels--and pros like Mark Comiskey, who pulls double duty as a band member and as the ComEd drill sergeant--er, crew leader. The acoustics at the Pulaski Park field house are tricky, but this show is all about the visuals anyway, and its funky junk-shop aesthetic won gasps of delight from both adults and kids as they identified the origins of various props; the pogo-stick jackhammer was a particular crowd pleaser. Some dead air creeps in about two-thirds of the way through this 45-minute piece, but the performers' palpable enthusiasm makes up for it. Pulaski Park, 1419 W. Blackhawk, 773-388-9031. Through December 29: Thursdays-Fridays, 7:30 PM; Saturdays, 5 and 7:30 PM; Sundays, 2 and 5 PM. $12.

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