Catch-22 | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Having seen several misguided productions of Joseph Heller's less-than-perfect stage adaptation of his own brilliant antiwar novel, I wrongly believed the script could never really work. But Steep Theatre's staging of Catch-22 is smart and fast paced, and whole scenes that had been deadly dull in earlier shows spring to life (like the one where Yossarian and an Italian whore become entangled in an infuriatingly circular argument: he wants to marry her, but she won't marry him because she thinks he's crazy because he wants to marry her). Apt casting is one of the production's secrets; James Elly is terrific as the hysterical, mildly paranoiac Yossarian. Even more important is how well the ensemble delivers Heller's comic dialogue, which is peppered with paradoxes ("[He] made up his mind to live forever, or at least die trying"). Where other directors have punched up such lines, desperately telegraphing that they're supposed to be funny, G.J. Cederquist has his actors speak them like Americanized Zen paradoxes, earning laughs even as he touches on the deeper meanings in Heller's tragicomic text. Through 11/9: Mon-Wed 8 PM. Steep Theatre, 3902 N. Sheridan, 312-458-0722. $15.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lee Miller.

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