Drinking & Writing | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Drinking & Writing

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Drinking & Writing, Neo-Futurists, at T's Bar and Restaurant. It's hard to resist romanticizing the correlation between hard drinking and splendid writing. The profusion of evidence linking the two would leave even Johnny Cochran speechless; as this production's posters truthfully assert, five of our seven pre-1960 Nobel Prize winners were famous for hitting the bottle. Even if you grant the connection but deny any causation, you're stuck; what cripples or kills the writer is no less fascinating than what makes him great. The addictive impulse, even if irrelevant to his fiction, is never so to his story.

Writer-performers Sean Benjamin, Steven Mosqueda, and Diana Slickman cannily balance the ineluctable glamour of art-inflected alcoholism with relentlessly harrowing portraits of self-destructive genius: Faulkner discovered, a waxen, wasted nightmare, by his editor; the slow, lonely decline of Dorothy Parker; Fitzgerald, subsisting on a glucose drip at age 40. The form is more symposium than theatrical show--the three performers drink and swap stories in a bar--but their quotation-littered approach is well suited to the material.

Putting value judgments (and health concerns) aside, Drinking & Writing ventures into still more treacherous waters, likening the descent into sleep and dream to the arc of the writing experience and identifying inspiration with intoxication--and both with death. But as qualified by the cast's frank self-examination, that proposition is entirely sober--and sobering. And like Charles Bukowski at his best, it's mostly, inexplicably, leavened with laughter and light.

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