Big Dreams (An Evening With an Elephant, Enclosed) | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Big Dreams (An Evening With an Elephant, Enclosed)


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BIG DREAMS (AN EVENING WITH AN ELEPHANT, ENCLOSED), Infamous Commonwealth Theatre, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Writer-director Gina Lucita Monreal's new play opens with five gray-clad actors connected by a thick chain at their ankles struggling down the aisle toward a wooden cage. Over the play's nearly two hours, the five enact different aspects of Sky, a female Asian elephant in a Wisconsin zoo, as well as other characters. Scenes from Sky's past--including a heartrending separation from her mother--combine with fantasy segments inspired by the small television Sky's kindly keeper leaves as company for her during the 16-hour stretches she spends alone every day after visiting hours.

Monreal's script, though well researched, is so larded with whimsical wordplay that at times I felt I was watching a PETA tract penned by Dr. Seuss. Essentially didactic, Big Dreams needs a lot of editing to bring its inarguable message--humans need to treat wild animals with greater compassion--to a more satisfying conclusion. Its pop culture send-ups in the fantasy segments also feel stale and repetitious. Still, the actors are engaging, and they do a lovely job manipulating Lisa Barcy's evocative puppet version of Sky.

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