Christmas on Mars | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Christmas on Mars



Christmas on Mars, Artistic Home. Bruno and Audrey may resemble the typical miserable couple preparing a dark, squalid New York apartment for a baby on the way, but they're more miserable than most. Bruno is a self-absorbed aging model who finds his career in permanent wane. Audrey's woeful childhood with an indifferent mother has left her so emotionally numbed that she can see Bruno only as a chromosome delivery system for her baby. Further weighing down the couple is Nissim, Bruno's former roommate, who labors under the neurotic delusion that he and Bruno are meant to be lovers forever. In Nissim's words, this is a world full of people "depressed, desperate, angry, and waiting to die."

Even under ideal circumstances, Harry Kondoleon's pitch-black comedy would be a trying late-night offering: its caustic cynicism is unrelenting over two long acts, wearying all but the heartiest of spirits as midnight comes and goes. And director Sharon Hazel faces circumstances far from ideal. Not only is her production staged on another play's set, which means there's a back porch in the middle of the couple's apartment, she lost one of her four actors the night before opening. Last-minute replacement John Mossman, script in hand, did an admirable job as Bruno, and the explosive William Tellman transformed the cartoonish Nissim into a truly heartbreaking figure. Fortunately Hazel's production hits more often than it misses, but its largely unmodulated energy prevents a meaningful arc from developing.

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