Catch-22 | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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CATCH-22, Signal Ensemble Theatre, at the Chopin Theatre. Every time I see the stage version of Joseph Heller's absurdist antiwar novel I find myself wishing he hadn't written it himself. Comic bits that are hilarious in the book, such as Major Major Major's order that no one is to be let into his office while he's there, feel like sketch comedy onstage. And horrifying moments in the novel--the murder of a young Italian maid, the death of Snowden--happen too quickly onstage to have much impact.

Still, the play can be amusing. Especially if the folks performing it are as adept as the Signal Ensemble at switching gracefully from comedy to drama and back again. This nimbleness is all the more impressive given that most of the actors play three or four characters. Daniel E. Brennan is absolutely hysterical--in both senses of the word--as the protagonist, bombardier Yossarian. When he points out the absurdities of army life we laugh with him, and when he talks about his fear of being killed we feel his mortal terror.

I wish, though, someone had told Jason Powers not to play Milo Minderbinder as Richard Simmons. (I've always pictured Minderbinder as a dead ringer for Cheney.) Powers's Major Major Major is much more subdued.

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