Absolution | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Absolution, Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Oddly, Robert William Sherwood's "neo-noir psychological thriller" features little in the way of thrills or psychology. Former high school chums David, Gordon, and Peter committed a horrendous crime in their youth and swore one another to secrecy. Now one of them insists they confess to the authorities. For the first 30 minutes, everyone expounds at length on most everything, even when the other characters onstage already know what's being explained. Eventually each states his position: cartoonish cutthroat businessman Gordon wants to bury the past to safeguard his fortune; born-again Christian Peter, abandoned by his wife, feels he must admit his transgression; and the jaded David wants to wash his hands of the whole matter. Once the air is cleared, the men spend most of the remaining hour repeating themselves in belabored prose, making academic speeches about memory, morality, and truth. Without new complications, tension can't escalate and the plot can't progress.

The icy restraint Martha Plimpton shows in her directorial debut might have worked if Sherwood had provided any genuine suspense. Instead this choice makes her smart, meticulous cast seem disengaged from the material, an effect exacerbated by Matthew York's enormous Spartan set, which renders the actors visually incidental and psychologically removed from the audience.

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