Child's Play | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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CHILD'S PLAY, Lucid Theatre Productions, at Preston Bradley Center for the Arts. The 1972 film based on Robert Marasco's drama conveyed some chills, but this Child's Play is much less convincing: Clyde Simon's static 90-minute revival never achieves the momentum terror feeds on.

A Catholic boys' school is haunted by more than the usual guilt: like refugees from Lord of the Flies, the students continually attack one another. One student loses an eye. Another is draped Christlike over a cross in the chapel. A third uses voodoo to force a teacher to carve stigmata into his hand. Blame falls on Jerome, a disciplinarian teacher who finds himself harassed, framed by ugly letters filled with pedophiliac photos. Jerome in turn blames Joseph, a 30-year veteran and father figure to the boys. The truth--which doesn't explain much but ends the cycle of violence--comes out only after the school is closed down completely.

Perhaps the scariest element is how little we learn about--or hear from--the boys themselves, a device that allows us to project on them whatever paranoia the script can muster. But their complicity remains frustratingly unresolved. Were they incited to perform these acts, or did they pit one teacher against the other? The question would be more compelling if Lucid's staging were more urgent and menacing. Brett C. Sears shouts his lungs out as Jerome but gets little support; ultimately he seems to be emoting in a vacuum.

--Lawrence Bommer

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