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Fall Arts Guide 2010: Devilish Children and the Civilizing Process

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The folks at Dream Theatre won't be producing their annual Halloween show this year. What with two of the storefront company's principals getting married in October, they decided that a fifth staging of Anna in the Darkness—the tale of a schoolteacher cornered by a whole town full of sadistic fundamentalists—was one project too many. But they're not ceding the holiday entirely. The next show of their regular season sounds even more surreally grotesque than Anna. Based on Der Struwwelpeter, a 19th-century German collection of doggerel poems in which bad kids get way more than what's coming to them, Devilish Children and the Civilizing Process posits a Dickensian boarding school that functions a little like a roach hotel: students check in but never check out. They while away the hours of their confinement trying to improve themselves, in the forlorn hope that doing so will make their parents want to reclaim them—with what playwright and soon-to-be groom Jeremy Menekseoglu calls "horrifying consequences." Menekseoglu's five stories include one about a thumbsucker whose habit is, uh, sharply curtailed and another in which a girl finds out what it really means to cry her eyes out. When Menekseoglu started to tell me what happens to a kid with a fascination for fire, I finished his sentence, saying, "She gets burned." Oh, he replied, "It's much worse than that." This sort of thing plays nicely to a preoccupation of Dream Theatre's most compelling shows: how codes of behavior usually end up destroying people.  10/28-11/21, Dream Theatre, 556 W. 18th, 773-552-8616, $15-$18. —Tony Adler

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