Doorslam | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Plasticene, at the Chopin Theatre.

This disorienting, overstimulating web of self-conscious, ritually repetitive physical theater makes the audience work for its metaphysical supper. Developed by director Dexter Bullard in collaboration with Plasticene, Doorslam creates a paranoid dream out of four actors, three doors, a chair, a rolled-up newspaper, a hat, projected images, and a coffee cup. The action begins with a masked robotic creature who moves through what could be any Monday in the Loop, but then the gestures and objects associated with them are transformed into a melee of competition and terror.

The audience is all but coerced into supplying a narrative to explain the increasingly bizarre and threatening relationships, a coercion that may not sit well with those who prefer to have sense made for them. Yet this obsessive, fluid "storytelling" does create strong emotions, exploring issues of power, anonymity, and conformity with a driving purpose and deceptive simplicity. Depending on the scene, an innocuous newspaper or hat can easily seem a weapon, a shield, or a badge of honor. A cup of coffee can become a cup of flame lighting the stage as the four performers' fear and rage increase.

In this hour-long show doors opened and shut on victors and victims so quickly that the story running through my head became a surreal chain of personal associations. My father coming home from the office, defeated. A horror movie. An initiation into some strange fraternity. Different stories, no doubt, from everyone else's, but fueled by the cast's manic energy and conviction, which demanded my attention during this well-crafted nonverbal nightmare.

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