Critic's Choice | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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I could burrow through half a dozen dictionaries and still not find the words to describe Polish theatermaker Leszek Madzik and his company, Scena Plastyczna ("Visual Stage"): Madzik's breathtaking, purely imagist work exists in a preconscious realm unapproachable through conventional language. Eschewing spoken text (he says he's been "maturing to silence") and using actors almost incidentally, Madzik plunges his audience into absolute darkness--so dark you literally can't see your hand in front of your face--and coaxes out of this abyss hallucinatory images more mesmerizing, disturbing, and achingly beautiful than the most vivid dreams. This Chicago appearance marks Madzik's American debut, though he's been making theater for 24 years and his company has been presented in nearly every European capital. Last weekend fortunate audiences saw The Herbarium, a 1976 work in which Madzik used color for the last time. That piece explores images of birth--a mummylike man, lit by an occasional strobe, suspended by thick ropes by his hands and feet struggling to free himself; four gaunt, towering female figures from whose abdomens are torn handfuls of feathers; a mysterious woman, seemingly 100 yards away, emerging again and again from her coffinlike home. This weekend's offering is 1978's The Moisture, which reportedly looks at death. Some may think Madzik's work too brief--The Herbarium is just under half an hour, and The Moisture is just over--but why criticize an eclair for not being a chocolate cake? I left The Herbarium hungering for more, but oh, it was delicious while it lasted. Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 278-0075. Through June 19: Thursday, 7:30 PM; Friday-Saturday, 7:30 and 10 PM; Sunday, 3 PM. $25 on Thursday (includes reception with the company); other shows, $15.

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

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