Playwright John Guare, perhaps best known for Six Degrees of Separation, brings us this dark tale of post Civil War era survivors beginning a commune on Nantucket. This sounded like a fascinating premise to me and I cleared the decks to attend.
The story is set long after the utopia’s demise, and is a retrospective of the lurid rapes, infections with syphilis, drunken and drug excess, suicides, murder, child molestations and more that paint the dark narrative.
There is a lot of dramatic content here, but at such as steady pace that one doesn’t feel the build up of dramatic tension as much as finding oneself inured to it. Another annoyance of the script is the scattering of anachronistic more contemporary language such as expressions like “yackity yak” in what otherwise is a purposeful backdrop of séances, original bird watching studies, and an understanding of Randolph Hearst’s role in American history at the turn of the 20th century. This gave characters an unreal feel, and no doubt an uphill battle for the actors.
From conversations around us in Intermission and also at the play’s conclusion it was clear that many in the audience just didn’t follow the wordy actions.
You can’t fault the actors, several of whom we have seen absolutely shine in other plays, or the director for developments of characters that don’t quite add up to realistic plausibilities.
Ka-Tet theater company recently brought us the gem of Smudge and I wondered why they put this play in its lineup. The program notes harken our need to contemplate the threat of new wars in the Middle East and mankind’s path forward from the darkness. Upon reading that I find myself with others in the audience collectively going, “Huh?”
Ka-Tet Theater is performing this at the Greenhouse Theater through November 10.
2257 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago
For tickets call the Greenhouse Theater Box Office at 773 404 7336 or visit the Greenhouse Theater Website
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM; Sundays at 3 P.M.