Subtlety has never been the New Criminals' strong suit. Known for their rowdy version of commedia dell'arte, New Crime Productions usually fails for the same reasons they succeed. Methusalem was loud and energetic--and soared; Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was loud and energetic--and flopped. Then along came David Sinaiko. Taking the company's kick-ass acting style and melding it with the significantly subtler burlesque that Dexter Bullard used in his production last year of Turcaret the Financier (in which Sinaiko starred), Sinaiko came up with a hybrid that combines the best of both approaches. His hybrid perfectly suits Jean Genet's absurdist satire, The Balcony. In Genet's over-the-top brothel fantasies meant to satirize bourgeois respectability, with characters clomping around in oversize uniforms, the house style works quite nicely. Later in the evening, when the play turns to more complex topics--the nature of political power, the difficulty of love, the thin line between acting and being--Sinaiko's cast follows the slope of the play downward, tempering their acting by degrees to fit Genet's increasingly subtle text until, by the final curtain, they achieve what I thought I would never hear at New Crime Productions: several continuous minutes of brooding, moving silence--so powerful it haunts me still. At At the Gallery, 1543 W. Division, 235-6557. Through May 22: Thursdays-Fridays, 8 PM; Saturdays, 7 and 10 PM; Sundays, 7 PM. $12.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Yael Routtenberg.

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