Anne Bogart's Viewpoints training method, which she uses as the basis of the Saratoga International Theater Institute, isn't revolutionary: Bogart herself has said it's nothing new. As in dance, time is addressed through tempo, duration, and repetition; space is addressed through shape, gesture, spatial relationships, and the topography of the stage. A good production of Death of a Salesman should do the same.
Bogart's Viewpoints method begins with improvised movement by the company and eventually arrives at a performance--which is what Chicago Viewpoints Ensemble, an engaging new company fresh from working with Bogart and her colleague Tina Landau, has done, driven by a wish to expose Chicago audiences "to what we think is the most exciting thing in theater today." But it isn't a new gospel they're preaching, even in the world of Chicago performance: companies such as Doorika, Goat Island, and the Cook County Theatre Company all employ similar methods.
Still, Chicago Viewpoints is a welcome addition to the scene, unpretentious and energetic. Their first production--loosely the story of a novelist who culls characters from personal ads--is a sharp, well-focused, gently humorous examination of the power of sexual attraction. The ensemble works together beautifully, but most refreshing is the attention to language, a feature often overlooked in this sort of work. Never deliberately obscure, they illuminate what they're doing with simple poetry as well as movement--defining the frustration of premature ejaculation in hilarious haiku, redefining the word "parasite" (it becomes "Paris-ite," suddenly the height of sophistication), and playing riffs on such pop-culture standbys as Star Wars and The Twilight Zone.