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Latino Chicago Theater Company.

At the center of Migdalia Cruz's gleaming, dark, poetic play is Ci-trona, a fur-covered woman with a philosophical bent, a taste for raw meat, and a passion for beauty. Michael, smitten with her, buys her from the carnival sideshow and pens her in his basement, pointing out to her as proof of his good intentions that the cage he's built is the biggest she's ever had. Citrona is in love with Nena, however, the animal trapper who (out of love for Michael) brings Citrona rabbits to eat and cleans her cage.

You don't have to be a die-hard romantic to appreciate love triangles--they make for such clean, tight drama. And this is perhaps the most compelling and certainly the weirdest love triangle you'll run across. Cruz's eccentric, articulate characters live in a futuristic desert where sand seeps in through the windows at night and the only hope lies in misplaced affections. Her dialogue ranges from soaring lyricism to raucous vulgarity, and in Citrona she creates a splendid blend of earth mother, wild child, and fairy-tale beast.

This production, directed with flair by Ralph Flores, boasts some toothsome performances by very fine actors. Mark Vann plays Michael as a mildly sinister, backward boy determined to win the love of a dangerous pet. Consuelo Allen's Nena adores him with heartbreaking fervor; glowingly soft and bunny-brained, she begins to resemble the little woodland creatures she brings Citrona. But the heart of the production is Marilyn Dodds Frank (in an ingenious pelt designed by Joel Klaff) as the beast/woman who yearns for beauty but can't help demolishing it. Never has someone this repulsive seemed more human, whether Ci-trona is reciting a love poem to Nena, singing Beatles tunes, or tearing into her bloody dinner. Fur may be a little sticky for those with weak stomachs, but it's heart's blood that's making all the mess and it shouldn't be missed.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Diana Solis.

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