Bent | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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BENT, Caught in the Act Productions, at Chopin Theatre. Playwright Martin Sherman never spares our sensibilities in his lean, graphic depiction of gay lovers victimized during the Holocaust. It's 1934, and Max, a feckless Berlin deal maker and drug user, and his delicate dancer boyfriend, Rudy, are caught up in hell once Hitler launches a persecution of homosexuals that sends Max to Dachau. Engaging in unspeakable acts to survive, he finally flaunts the Jewish yellow star rather than the gay pink triangle in order to get better treatment. Only when he meets his last lover, Horst, does this sybarite learn to live for someone else.

Bent was last performed here six years ago--reason enough to revive this eye-opener. Director Erik Paul Simonson wisely keeps his staging real rather than overly urgent: he makes the Nazis' victims thoroughly recognizable. Ron Ward as the resilient Max credibly creates a party boy turned willing martyr--likewise credible are James Dunn's pretty, doomed Rudy, Tom Harris's hetero drag queen, Jerry M. Miller's self-described "fluffy" uncle, and David Bendana's complex, heartbreaking Horst. Carrying rocks back and forth across the stage, Max and Horst both seem spin-offs from a very sick Waiting for Godot. They're witnesses to a crime against humanity, not examplars of a crime against nature.

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