BLUE REMEMBERED HILLS, Terrapin Theatre, at National Pastime Theater. Nine out of ten Chicago companies would slaughter Dennis Potter's 1979 fable, originally written for British television. Seven adults play rambunctious seven-year-olds crashing about in the English woods during World War II: for the better part of 90 minutes they cajole, ridicule, bullyrag, mistreat, and belittle one another, showing us how children learn their petty, mean, cowardly behavior from abusive adults and a militaristic society. Most Chicago actors would turn these characters into one-note rants, squeaking and squawking through a god-awful "in your face" evening.
Fortunately director Brad Nelson Winters and his cast have an interest in craft--essential to bringing Potter's rather undeveloped script to life. The actors find moments of great subtlety and nuance without compromising the play's underlying brutality, propelling themselves through the evening and Robert G. Smith's stark enchanted forest with palpable urgency. This is a remarkable feat given Potter's penchant for letting his characters dally: with precious little insight into human nature, he enacts the same childish power plays over and over again, finally forcing the story into a hurried and unconvincing tragic ending. It's a testament to Terrapin's artistry that it's made this one-dimensional play so interesting to watch. --Justin Hayford