Drowning Sorrows | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Drowning Sorrows

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DROWNING SORROWS, Victory Gardens Theater. A kind of dramatic Rorschach test, Douglas Post's psychological puzzler forces audiences to fill in some tantalizing blanks. A Manhattan heiress visits the Virgin Islands, "not on a vacation, but a vendetta." Arriving at an isolated cabana with her British husband Raymond, Emily decides that the bartender, Duncan, is the guy who jilted her 20 years earlier. Raymond knows that finding her betrayer will end his wife's search for the first--and worst--love of her life, and he's willing to pay Duncan $10,000 to play along with her.

But Post makes us wonder whether Emily's fingered the real deceiver. What is Duncan hiding that makes him play his part so well? Will he repeat whatever wrong he's done with his latest lover? Post leaves the past--and future--intriguingly open-ended. A lighter touch would have worked even better, however. The metaphorical dialogue gets portentous. And Emily's final disposition is sadly unambiguous, making it clear that the playwright's real interest lies in Duncan's salvation, not Emily's healing.

Curt Columbus stages Victory Gardens' world premiere without cloning the play's influences--Night of the Iguana, Key Largo, and Beyond the Horizon, O'Neill's early escapist fantasy. Kate Goehring plunges into Emily's despair, and John Judd gives Duncan an apt air of mystery. Andrew Leman plays the duffer husband with quiet menace, while Bill Bartelt's lush set amply suggests the island life in which Duncan has "drowned" for 17 years.

--Lawrence Bommer

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