Eye of God | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Eye of God

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Eye of God, Firstborn Productions, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Tim Blake Nelson's eerie parable about the violent consequences of a marriage between a shy waitress and an overzealous ex-con is neither flawless nor perfectly realized: the dialogue is extremely raw, and Nelson's exploration of morality borders on the oppressive at times. In the hands of a skilled director, though, Eye of God can be absolutely bone chilling, as it was in Profiles Theatre's local premiere last fall. Consistently taut, Lisa Devine's staging allowed the play's undercurrent of violence to remain muted until the grisly climax. The fluidity of the production helped simplify the play's jarring spatial and temporal transitions, while the entire cast sculpted finely realized characters from Nelson's simple archetypes.

Unfortunately, there's little subtlety to be found in Firstborn Productions' current revival. Mark Reynolds's stark set and lighting design are too sterile to be effective, and texture is entirely absent from Michael Miller's clunky staging. Frequent blackouts interfere with the play's momentum, while grotesque, tableauxlike framing at the end of scenes places undue emphasis on the script's most obvious moralizing. Aside from Jason Jones's tender, taciturn Sheriff Rogers, the performances tend to extremes. Emotional range is limited to yelling or whispering; nervous twitching or convulsing takes the place of acting. Eye of God isn't even consistent enough to be consistently mediocre. --Nick Green

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