Alive | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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More than three years after it premiered at Factory Theater, Nick Digilio and Mike Meredith's gleefully vulgar comedy about a group of poker buddies remains remarkably fresh. Of course, poker night is a familiar theatrical motif, but these guys are funnier than Stanley Kowalski and his gang, and their dialogue is much more crisp and contemporary than that of Oscar Madison, Felix Unger, and the boys. The ensemble work is excellent and the performances are dead-on, most notably Meredith as a name-dropping disc jockey, Mike Beyer as an alcoholic Zeppelin fan, and Steve Walker as a redneck in training: his dry, deadpan delivery recalls the young Walter Matthau. Admittedly, the problems with the script also remain. Its few serious moments feel forced, the Gen X commentary is hackneyed, and the ending seems arbitrary. But the play's combustible blend of wickedly accurate foulmouthed dialogue, chest thumping, sexist male-bonding bravado, and hilarious cultural references make it a consistent pleasure. The current production is intended to raise money for and interest in a planned movie version; how well Alive will translate to film remains to be seen, but if even half of Factory's energy and humor come off, Digilio and Meredith should be able to blow the reigning Gen X mediocrities out of the water. To use Factory's favorite phrase, Alive rules. Factory Theater, 1257 W. Loyola, 773-274-1345. Through November 7: Fridays, 10 PM. $7.

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