A Life | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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A Life, Irish Repertory of Chicago, at Victory Gardens Theater. In many ways Hugh Leonard's 1979 play is his version of Krapp's Last Tape: an elderly man looks back on his life and recognizes the moments when he let the woman he loved slip through his fingers. But A Life lacks Beckett's bleakness, flashes of comedy, and efficiency. It takes Leonard almost an hour and a half longer than Beckett to push his protagonist, crabby Irish schoolmaster Desmond Drumm, to the brink of existential despair.

Of course, Leonard burns up lots of time with the nice little slice-of-life details--taking tea, having oblique conversations--that make his myriad plays about Ireland (he's written more than 40) so accessible. He also employs the slightly clunky convention of cutting between scenes of Desmond in his 60s and Desmond 40 years earlier.

Irish Repertory of Chicago's revival is perfectly serviceable. Richard Block's straightforward staging wrings just the right amount of sentiment from the material, and for the most part the cast deliver the above-average performances one expects of an Equity production. Only two stand out, however: Alyson Green as the lost love seems particularly inspired by the material, and Daniel J. Travanti is quite moving as Drumm--though at times his Dublin accent sounds suspiciously like the vaguely German accent he used in Old Wicked Songs.

--Jack Helbig

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