Dream Play Distorted | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Dream Play Distorted


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Dream Play Distorted, the Mammals, at the Space. The action in August Strindberg's A Dream Play centers around the Hindu sky god Indra's curious daughter, who wants to learn the ways of mortals. Her visit to earth reveals misery, injustice, and ugliness; when she returns to heaven, her human companions, mired in ignorance, can't follow.

This 1902 drama rejected the conventions of realism to embrace a free-associative expressionism that makes it historically influential. But it's nearly impossible to stage, given a cast of more than 36 characters, multiple locales, and elaborate scenic effects. In Dream Play Distorted playwright-director Bob Fisher pares down Strindberg's work to its bare essentials, which are delivered in the Mammals' trademark style: extravagant emoting, autoerotic choreography, Grand Guignol images (a schoolmaster in menacing chiaroscuro, a masked crone slumped in a wheelchair making her final confession), seamless aural accompaniment, and a running time of just over an hour. This largely unknown company clearly has a knack for condensing elephantine pageantry into elegant, multisensory tone poems.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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