Actors Are People Who Lie to You | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Actors Are People Who Lie to You

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Actors Are People Who Lie to You, Aardvark, at Bailiwick Arts Center. Despite the title disclaimer, quite a few non-Equity truths emerge from this scrappy, 75-minute late-night "fantasia," a collaboration between veteran playwright Robert Patrick and newcomer Andy Cobb. Actor-writer Cobb embellishes Patrick's 26-year-old off-Broadway script with his own insider's take on the embattled (store)front lines of off-Loop theater. Actors takes the form of a mock tribute to grunt player Arnold Bliss (Jon Collins, one of eight in Aardvark's appropriately nonunion cast). Scenes and songs sketch this Everyactor's imaginary and actual adventures: his failure to find a cultural identity (this child of Wilmette escapes into a gangsta fantasy life), his encounters with literally monstrous casting directors, and his bad experience rehearsing an anti-Vietnam epic, when he turns temperamental and misses his cues.

Abetted by Klaus Schuller's musical parodies, Patrick and Cobb poke fun at obligatory dream ballets, resumé-flaunting thespians networking at a party, pretentious concept productions, rap rants, captious critics (the Reader takes some lumps), and incestuous late-night audiences padded with nonpaying friends, colleagues, and relations (just the way this one was). Whatever residual warmth the ensemble musters is meant for one another; Actors ardently celebrates the lust for fame of performers with no visible means but with hearts full of hunger. Happily, that underdog compassion provides the charm in Ann Filmer's raw-boned staging. Despite uneven and ingrown material, Actors artfully deflects its supposed satire into self-parody. It should be catnip to its inevitable audience: everyone else who has to lie for a living.

--Lawrence Bommer

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