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Feeding the Moonfish

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Resistance Theatre, at Sheffield's Beer and Wine Garden.

You can't fault young companies for not having the cash to rent the perfect space. Still, the Resistance Theatre could have done better than Sheffield's Beer and Wine Garden, which is miserably suited to this Chicago premiere of Barbara Wiechmann's tragic fairy tale Feeding the Moonfish. Subtle, nuanced, quiet performances are too rare in Chicago to have them almost drowned out by the shouts of guys playing quarters in the next room.

Wiechmann's somber two-character mood piece, a grimly subversive twist on the Bruce Springsteen/John Patrick Shanley motif of two lonesome losers out on the docks at night, would seem to require, if not silence, at least relative quiet. As it stands, though, one is only occasionally engaged by this story about the brooding son of a suicidal father and the teenage-burnout girl who comes to him hoping that, one way or another, he'll take her out of her misery.

When things are quiet enough to hear the chilling poetry--descriptions of strange, disembodied voices and shimmering fish in the mysterious black ocean--it produces an almost hypnotic sense of impending doom despite the sometimes pat dialogue. Richard Gosse's ultrasilent, emotionally flat performance as the tortured, murderous dreamer Martin doesn't help Wiechmann's script much; what holds the show together is newcomer Leslie Zang's stunningly deft and heartbreaking portrait of teenage misery and desperation. Though she repeats certain mannerisms, Zang demonstrates an incredibly promising raw talent and charisma, making you strain to hear her even under the most difficult circumstances.

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