Defending Your Life | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Performing Arts Review

Defending Your Life

by

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

comment

DEFENDING YOUR LIFE, WNEP Theater, at the Lakeshore Theater. Writer-director Albert Brooks's warm 1991 meditation on paying one's debts in the afterlife surpassed the slight observational humor of his previous films as he attempted to answer some of life's big questions. WNEP director Don Hall picks up where Brooks left off in this series of improvised hour-long mock trials, stripped to the film's Judgment City setting and featuring a character awaiting a stringent cradle-to-grave analysis of his or her life.

A deliberately paced affair without romance or sappy sentiment, the show derives much of its humor from the lightning-quick interplay between the two performers playing the defense and prosecutor roles, originated by Rip Torn and Lee Grant in the movie. On the night I attended, Brad Norman and Jen Ellison stole the show with their acid exchanges as the other six members of the ensemble conjured up the gory details of the protagonist's life in interconnected flashbacks.

Overall, however, there's room for improvement in the show's pacing: too much time was spent unpacking the heroine's free-spirited college years at the expense of the last two decades of her life. And Hall's cast fails to establish the serious side of the proceedings, never convincing the audience to invest in the show's herky-jerky fragments--we never learn the verdict on the protagonist's life, for example. Disappointingly indeterminate, the show itself seems to exist in limbo.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment