In Sixty Story Animal, Beau O'Reilly celebrates a landmark birthday with Samuel Beckett

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Beau OReilly in Sixty Story Animal
Beau O'Reilly turns 60 this year, on May 16. I haven't done a hard count, but an educated guess would put the number of stories, songs, and plays he's written in his time at "a lot." A teacher as well as a founding member of the Curious Theatre Branch—which has so far produced 25 annual Rhinoceros Theater Festivals—O'Reilly has also fostered loads of work by a multitude of his fellow artists.

So it's a little surprising that this mainstay of Chicago's fringe community isn't commemorating his milestone, round-number birthday with some kind of personal retrospective—like his longtime colleague Jenny Magnus, who recently marked the publication of a collection of her plays with a marathon staging of seven of them.

But no. O'Reilly is celebrating himself by celebrating an inspiration: Samuel Beckett. His birthday show, a yearlong project titled Sixty Story Animal, consists mainly of brief, melancholy Beckett pieces, performed by him and another Curious member, Judith Harding. It can be seen next at Links Hall.

"Beckett was where I started as a teenager, my first discovery in the theater," O'Reilly told me by e-mail. "In recent years I have come to realize how Beckett's marriage of intuition and rigor has underlined so much of what I myself have made. The stories we tell are different, the language we use to tell them, but the starting places are very similar."

The Links Hall program features What Is the Word, The Old Tune, and a sort of internal dialogue, Rockaby, in which Harding—exquisitely—plays a woman who sits in a rocking chair and croaks the single word, "More," even as she's lulled to permanent sleep by a disembodied voice explaining to her that more won't be forthcoming. It isn't a jolly message for a birthday, but then I'm sure O'Reilly understands that Beckett was one of the great poets of mortality. And what subject could be more apt on the occasion of anyone's 60th than mortality?


Fri 3/21-Sat 3/23, 7 PM, Links Hall at Constellation, 3111 N. Western, 773-281-0824, linkshall.org, $15 or pay what you can.

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