Geography of a Horse Dreamer | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Geography of a Horse Dreamer

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GEOGRAPHY OF A HORSE DREAMER, Red Brick Theater Company, at the Cornservatory. There must be some reason for the enduring popularity of Sam Shepard's 1974 play, and I suspect it lies in the opportunities it affords young actors for scenery gustation. Red Brick's production, helmed by Cynthia Cales, frequently strains the performers' vocal cords as they relay the story of Cody, a young man who dreams the outcome of horse races and so has been taken captive by a sinister band of gamblers. This staging is enjoyable enough at times, but Shepard's tendency to be both heavy-handedly metaphorical--the dreamer as artist, the crooks as corporate goons who exploit the purity of his visions--and sentimental about the innocence of the old west makes for thin theatrical gruel.

A clever director might make the script fresh by reading it as a comment on globalization and outsourcing, playing off the fact that the syndicate moves Cody around from one nameless country to another in search of profits. And a more imaginative, subtle, witty production might tease out the Pinteresque strands of nameless menace. Ethan Harper is convincingly feverish and frail as Cody, and Noah Krogh is delightful as Beaujo, the sweet, dumb half of the henchmen duo standing guard over the dreamer. Karl Sullivan's detailed set is impressively and elaborately transformed at intermission, but I wish the company had spent as much energy figuring out why this play needs to be remounted 30 years after its premiere.

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