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Say Goodnight, Gracie

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SAY GOODNIGHT, GRACIE, East Window Theatre Company, at the Greenview Arts Center. Two decades ago Steppenwolf turned Ralph Pape's 80-minute one-act into a play so intimate the audience felt like eavesdroppers; a sense of urgency made every confession count. But today Say Goodnight, Gracie seems aimless and overfamiliar, the victim of too many Big Chill spin-offs. Still, it remains a sturdy showcase for young actors.

Trapped between past promises and present crises, Pape's characters are about to attend a ten-year high school reunion. One, a secretary, is in love with a frustrated actor; a jokester poet and would-be TV writer camouflages his pain with irony; a stoner musician just wants to keep the gang together; and his date, a stewardess, has the strongest sense of self among them. There's little at stake here other than their growing awareness that they no longer share the same "cycle." But their feelings still carry the shock of recognition; insecurity never dates.

The players in Chris Maher's staging are the right age and seem authentically alienated, which--given an actor-proof script--is half the battle. Conveying the feeling of old friends primed to part, they have a familiar contempt for one another; if pot makes them occasionally zone out, it's just another way of saying good-bye. As the surly actor who can't forgive himself for missing Woodstock, Tim Hamelen is as mired in his sorrows as the play is in time. (If you go, dress warmly. The theater is barely heated.) --Lawrence Bommer

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