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The Life and Times of Forrest Chump

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The Life and Times of Forrest Chump, A Red Orchid Theatre. It's high time someone exploded that meretricious Oscar winner Forrest Gump and its equation of stupidity with virtue and pigheadedness with patriotism. The dogged parody Forrest Chump, penned by Chicagoan D.H. Robinson, goes beyond an extended skit to spoof the entire film--and It's a Wonderful Life, too. Mean and funny, it's an apt lampoon. Forrest Chump, Gump's cousin, endures a miserable life that's the opposite of the smug Gump's easy success: Chump is a naive genius whose fate is to get ripped off because he asks too many questions and owns too many books. Embarrassed, where Gump is proud, that his name comes from Confederate general Nathan Forrest, a KKK founder, Chump resigns himself to his nonconformity. Encouraged to be mediocre, he keeps disappointing: he writes the Beatles' songs, inspires Kennedy's moon quest, invents the solar-powered car, writes a Vietnam symphony, and preserves a social conscience, making choices instead of running like a fool to prove nothing.

Like his hero Candide, Chump gets trashed for his good intentions. And his beloved, wretched Ginny--who's after the other Forrest and does not die of AIDS--abandons him. At the end Chump finishes his haiku: "Life is like a beautiful piece of music--you don't ever want it to end." Forrest Chump relentlessly drives home its ironies; it needs editing and, in Belle Kerman's staging, a brisker pace. But Chris Williford makes a delightfully clueless Chump, and Virginia Fitzgerald plays Ginny with predatory zest.

--Lawrence Bommer

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