Green Air | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Eclipse Theatre Company.

Credit playwright Stephen Serpas with a singularly bizarre imagination. His menageries of batty nymphomaniacs, misguided new-age philosophers, and artistic hypochondriacs give his plays a fresh, decidedly modern feel. Too bad he has yet to come up with a play worthy of his characters.

Green Air, in a bang-up production by Eclipse Theatre Company, demonstrates all that's right and wrong with Serpas's work. Goofily unpredictable, the play is set at a benefit party for Colombian coffee-bean pickers where the feisty host, Angeline, seemingly modeled on the postmodern comic-book heroine Tank Girl, launches a nuclear rocket and ignites a war. There's little plot to speak of, just increasingly peculiar interactions among Angeline's guests, who include a physician with a foot fetish, a pair of Greenpeace protesters, a doglike homeless man, a deeply passionate FBI agent, a viciously mischievous teenager, and Angeline's boyfriend, a filmmaker with a penchant for bestiality.

Much of this is amusing and crisply written, but it leads exactly nowhere. The play's genuinely clever moments and wicked political satire never coalesce. The idiosyncratic characters seem chosen more for effect than for thematic concerns. And the final 20 minutes or so are disturbingly unfocused. Serpas apparently wants all his characters onstage for a humorously apocalyptic climax, but can't orchestrate their dialogue once they're there; a couple uncomfortable moments of panic feel ad-libbed.

Director John Swanbeck and an excellent cast do an admirable job of tying up many of Serpas's loose ends, but the play self-destructs anyway, a victim of too much unreined imagination.

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