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Back to Methusaleh


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It's a dazzling, ear-opening feast of reason: director Andrew Callis continues his brilliant series of staged readings of lesser-known works by the fecund George Bernard Shaw (earlier pieces were The Doctor's Dilemma and The Apple Cart). Shaw's 1921 Back to Methusaleh--a five-act, eight-hour epic--is a tour de force he modestly called "my Ring," but Shaw Chicago performs only acts one and five, with a running time of a little over two hours. In the first, Shaw wrestles with free will versus determinism and time versus eternity, reprising the myth of Eden: here Adam is paralyzed by an equal fear of and desire for death, while Eve is busy discovering sex, hope, fear, immortality, conception, and tomorrow, with the help of the enlightened Serpent. (In Shaw's vision the true snake is Cain.) Spiraling 30,000 years forward, the fifth act conjures up a utopia where children grow up to crave beauty and romance, lesser pursuits that Shaw imagines the Ancients will transmute into a life force that relishes pure intellect. Callis has assembled a superb cast who love Shaw's rich talk, especially Belinda Bremner and Jeannie Affelder as wise Eve and wiser Lilith (whose splendid speech closes the play), Donald Brearley as a resigned Adam and pensive Ancient, and Matthew McGinnis as a Cain worthy of Bosnia or our own backyard. Chicago Cultural Center, studio theater, 78 E. Washington (enter at 77 E. Randolph), 744-7648. Through March 27: Sundays, 3 PM; Mondays, 7 PM. Free, but reservations are required.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Taylor Boyle-Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

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