4-Play | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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4-Play, Bailiwick Repertory. Why juxtapose a comedy about a trendy couple's crisis of conscience over eating meat with a harrowing Harold Pinter drama about a man forced to drink liquor after his tongue has been cut out? Yet that's what this showcase of one-acts does, and the effect is, well, tasteless. As it happens, Pinter's One for the Road, solidly staged by Pat Acerra, is the only thing here worth an audience's time and money. Marked by perfect precision of language but decidedly unambiguous compared to Pinter's better-known works, it shows a fascist bureaucrat (effectively played by Peter Reeves with the chatty banality of a used-car salesman) interrogating three political prisoners--the tortured Victor and his wife and son--before pouring "one for the road,"the final agony in Victor's reeducation. Joe Pintauro's Rex is a clever but fragile vignette about whether and how to eat roadkill. Seen earlier this season in Dolphinback Theatre Company's American Divine, where it was hilariously played for high moral stakes, the play in Jemal Diamond's staging comes off as trite Bickersons silliness because Brad Light as the husband is all snide attitude.

The second half consists of Jamie Pachino's Kreskin Be Damned and Terrence McNally's Prelude and Liebestod. Pachino's apprentice-level monologue, directed by Lindsay Jones, concerns a young accountant so angered by his girlfriend's rejection that he musters up the psychic power to stop an el train from running over a man on the tracks; but despite Pachino's details, the story never rises above effortful whimsy. McNally offers contrapuntal monologues by a bisexual conductor, his wife, and a flirtatious gay fan at a Wagner concert. Directed by Jeremy Wechsler, this intermittently clever piece falls apart in a contrived shock ending. As the conductor, Joseph Wycoff's mush mouth obscures what little of McNally's text is worth listening to. --Albert Williams

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