In this Cook County Theatre Department revival, found and original texts provide the voices for a juxtaposition between two worlds. The clowns, limpid and theatrical, re-create classic bits of physical comedy and mime. The wrestlers wrestle, read letters to the audience about why they ran away from training camp, and generally struggle with controlling their impulses without losing the edge of pure aggression they need to succeed. There's no dialogue per se, and there's no perceivable plot. Though Cook County's avant-garde approach can easily lead to insularity, informed more by theory than by feeling, one of the found texts used by the wrestlers prevents that from happening. Taken from a college yearbook, this text has an astonishingly inarticulate voice, which struggles so hard and with such feeling to express the wrestlers' choices that its seriousness turns the other texts--particularly Kenneth Koch's 1000 Avant Garde Plays--into clownish intellectual foppery. The play quickly becomes a hall of mirrors: it's a struggle between clowns and wrestlers, but only the wrestlers struggle; the wrestlers' voices are concrete and serious, but they're so inarticulate they're clownish. Any attempt to make sense of it all is immediately swept away by a tidal wave of contradictions--and that's what makes Clowns Plus Wrestlers so funny and stimulating. Though the current revival's overly happy ending seems to let the clowns win, I'm still rooting for the wrestlers--those Middle American icons of reality. Cook County Theatre Department, 2255 S. Michigan (enter on 23rd Street), 842-8234. Thursday-Monday, April 1, 8 PM. $10. --Terry Brennan
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lara Furniss.