GARBAGE MAN AND THE GIRL WHO LOST HER FACE, at Urbus Orbis. Anastasia Royal's one-woman show about hope springing out of ill-fated love is so deliciously peculiar, so jarringly eccentric that one wishes it worked better. Writer, director, and performer of three roles, Royal spins the tale of a classical pianist, Ingrid, who loses her face in a car accident and the doomed young Irishman who acts with kindness toward her despite her disfigurement. The script shimmers with originality, most notably in passages delivered by an omniscient narrator who enumerates Ingrid's passionate encounters before her accident. The troubling account of Ingrid's erotic evening with a seedy circus performer is particularly poetic.
This piece has all the makings of a decent short story or one-act. But Royal isn't a sufficiently polished actor or dramatist to pull off a show by herself. Garbage Man lacks a sense of flow, of dramatic progression; despite an engaging story line, the play feels stagnant. Lengthy costume changes undermine the dramatic moments. And Royal seemed underrehearsed, approaching her characters uneasily, dropping in and out of dialect, stumbling over lines.
With its neo-gothic sensibility and nonlinear structure, Royal's play is unlike anything else onstage in Chicago. Would that novelty were enough.