Book of Days | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Lanford Wilson's 1998 play dramatizes the same conservative mind-set Thomas Frank explored in What's the Matter With Kansas? The residents of Dublin, Missouri, would rather gather in their fundamentalist church and gossip about the Hollywood outsider who's directing their community-theater production of Saint Joan than figure out the truth behind the death of the local cheese-factory patriarch. The passionate exception is the show's star, apple-cheeked Ruth (a beguiling Krista Forster). Presented here by a uniformly strong ensemble in Brad Akin's sharp staging, Wilson's script delineates the culture clash between local government and international conglomerates, the obsession with sexual rather than corporate morality, and the threat posed by groupthink religionistas bent on integrating church and state. When Ruth's husband sadly observes near the end of the play, "This isn't the town we grew up in anymore," it's a deeply resonant admission of loss and defeat. Through 7/23: Thu-Sat 8 PM. No show 6/30-7/2. Steep Theatre, 3902 N. Sheridan, 312-458-0722. $15.

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