Flood | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Flood, Alchymia Theatre. Nobelist Günter Grass actively resists the label "political writer," but this 1955 play--one of his often-overlooked early absurdist dramas--suggests that's what he is. Flood is pure agitprop, an obtuse biblical allegory that recasts Noah and his family as German nationals picking up the pieces of their shattered lives after a cataclysm. Frustrating in its talkiness and Ionesco-derived non sequiturs, Flood isn't easily absorbed; Grass didn't really hit his stride until his magnum opus, The Tin Drum, appeared the following year.

While director Scott Fielding's production of Flood--which, incidentally, is the play's Chicago premiere--doesn't pretend the material's less dense than it is, the cast approaches the text with such aplomb that it's hard not to lose oneself in Grass's existential meditations. As the play's de facto Greek chorus, a pair of rats who weather the storm on a roof, Noe Luis McDonald and Alicia Hall-Flesch approach their roles with a sense of childlike wonder that offsets some of the play's thicker metaphors.

But the boldest work here has been done by set designer Andrei Onegin, who has fashioned a space as divergent from reality as the play itself. With staircases that extend to infinity and doors that lead nowhere, Onegin's set looks like a page out of M.C. Escher's sketchbook; like Fielding's staging, it suggests myriad possibilities. And as the play doesn't offer any clear-cut answers, that's what it needs to work.

--Nick Green

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