Zeno at 4 a.m. | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Zeno at 4 a.m. 

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The South Africa-based Handspring Puppet Company, directed by William Kentridge, has an international reputation for highly stylized theatrical adaptations of modern literary classics, realized onstage using puppets, live actors, and Kentridge's own animated films. The company's first production was based on Woyzeck, Georg Buchner's fragmentary play about a soldier driven mad by army life; Woyzeck on the Highveld offered searing commentary on the effects of European colonialism on Africa. Similarly, Ubu and the Truth Commission used Alfred Jarry's satirical play Ubu Roi as the framework for a story about a white South African forced to acknowledge his complicity in the brutal apartheid era. Handspring's current show, Zeno at 4 a.m., is less overtly political than previous efforts but no less fierce. A section of Italo Svevo's early-20th-century novel Confessions of Zeno provides the springboard for this piece, adapted by Northwestern University grad Jane Taylor. A bland middle-class, middle-aged businessman is racked by nightmares and insomnia after his authoritarian father dies. Dubbed a "multimedia oratorio," this production features not only the usual puppetry, acting, and film but music by Kevin Volans, played live by the London-based Duke Quartet. Museum of Contemporary Art, theater, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010. November 9 through 11: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 4 PM. $22.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Herman Sorgeloos.

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