An Evening at the Caffe Chino III | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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An Evening at the Caffe Chino III

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AN EVENING AT THE CAFFE CINO iii, Retro Theatre Company, at Urbus Orbis. Watching Retro Theatre in the back of a bohemian cafe in a tiny theater--done up like a bohemian cafe, complete with two makeshift tables, people in black turtlenecks, and the ersatz-beatnik Skelton Brothers strumming their way through expressionless covers of 1960s pop-music classics--it's easy to imagine philosopher of culture Jean Baudrillard laughing himself morose. Retro's attempt to "capture the spirit of past ages," namely the vitality of the Caffe Cino in Greenwich Village in the 60s, confuses nostalgic simulacrum with art just as Dole confuses the 1950s with the future of America.

The Caffe Cino was a hothouse of theatrical innovation, but Steve Reily's mountings of two insubstantial Cino one-acts, Camera Obscura by Robert Patrick and A Day for Surprises by John Guare, are tame and conventional: he merely applies Vaseline to the lens of our collective theatrical memory. The one original piece--Sara Reily's My Sister's Waltz, in which three sisters complain to one another over the phone about things that don't matter very much--is as dry and stiff as 30-year-old bread. If you want to know how exciting a place like the Caffe Cino must have been, head over to the Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe during the Rhino Fest.

--Justin Hayford

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