FUR, Artistic Home. In the mid-90s, Nuyorican dramatist Migdalia Cruz was practically the resident playwright at Latino Chicago, but since 1997 her work has rarely been produced here. Now Luis Crespo has staged Fur at the Artistic Home. In Cruz's inverted, poetic take on the story of Beauty and the Beast, pet shop owner Michael falls in love with Citrona, a woman covered with a thick pelt who has a taste for freshly killed mammals. He keeps her in a cage in his basement--a cage he proudly points out is the largest she's ever lived in. But Citrona lusts after Nena, Michael's tightly wound shop assistant and procurer of Citrona's meals, while Nena is in love with the emotionally repressed Michael.
The Artistic Home's minuscule stage allows the tensions of this love triangle to have an impact that at times resembles a full-frontal assault. But the intimacy also reduces the work's dreamlike, otherworldly qualities: this production is less mythopoeic allegory than gut-wrenching sideshow noir in the vein of Nightmare Alley, the 1947 film about carny life. Janet Milstein nails Citrona's raging need and blunt wit, but Gerard Jamroz and Nejla Wolff need to find more levels in their characters to keep up with her. Tasha Anne James's costumes and Milstein's (uncredited) makeup are admirably detailed and convincing. Since the Goodman's recent Latino Theater Festival didn't include Cruz, it's nice to see another company reintroduce her idiosyncratic work here.