Blind Tasting | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Blind Tasting, Live Bait Theater. Sharon Evans's new play is a lovely if slight romantic comedy about couples intoxicated by wine snobbery. Peter Amster's sure-handed direction disguises Evans's overuse of exposition and coincidence to arrive at the play's emotional center: the way people protect themselves from the very love they seek. From the wine-making Marchese, who "seduces when I am sad," to Tom the radio "wine god," who can only approach women by lecturing them, every character seems dedicated to disproving Tom's tag line: "In vino veritas."

As Tom, Mark Richard gives one of his patented portraits of an ass with a human being hidden inside, infusing his obnoxious character with a touching desperation. Likewise, Marco Verna brings genuine need and surprising self-awareness to the role of the smarmy Marchese. The women aren't as well written: Kelly Lynn Hogan makes Tom's ex-wife, Miranda, as appealing as she can given the playwright's judgment that a female scholar must be a haughty bluestocking. Jenni Fontana as a wine maker who catches Tom's eye and Jennifer Barclay as his assistant also do their best with roles indebted to Madonna-whore stereotypes. A fine bard of romance, Evans is hampered by overly conventional views of male-female relations.

Mary Griswold's set and Mary McDonald Badger's lighting make possible the evening's perfect moment: isolated in the booth for his radio show, Tom confronts Miranda through its glass wall, which reflects their devastated faces side by side.

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