7 Stories | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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7 STORIES, A Red Orchid Theatre. A man dressed in the uniform of a corporate drone stands on a window ledge seven floors above a busy street: Will he jump? The people who pop in and out of the windows do little to discourage him--illicit lovers whose sex play involves simulated murder, a burnt-out psychiatrist as paranoid as his patients, a man prepared to assume a permanent alias to please his rich bride-to-be, anonymous revelers who live only for the next party, a Bible clutcher who frames God for her own crimes. Some offer the potential suicide a drink, some a cigarette; most heartily endorse his proposed defenestration. Then a cheerful 100-year-old invalid asks the man about the circumstances that have brought him here and gives him some advice he can use.

With its often overliterary dialogue, didactic self-revelatory monologues, and quasi-Zen resolution, Morris Panych's 7 Stories seems more a work in progress than a finished script. But directors Joseph Price and Lawrence McCauley and a vigorous, deeply committed cast effectively energize the low-wattage repartee. The 13 characters, portrayed by six actors, are all clearly drawn and given distinct vocal personalities. Guy Van Swearingen as the man literally on the edge conveys a clownish pathos, and Mary Mares shifts easily from overachieving gospel gripper to pixilated decagenarian. The Magritte-like set intensifies the sense of hysterical goofiness. In short, A Red Orchid Theatre's production of 7 Stories has enough style to make up for the lack of substance.

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