Hangtown | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Hangtown, Rhinoceros Theater Festival, at the Lunar Cabaret. "Nobody cares about history anymore!" laments Eva. But even as she utters these words she's surrounded by history, having returned on the occasion of her mother's death to the family farmhouse, once the site of the Last Chance Dance Saloon and Honky-Tonk. Moreover the ghosts of her ancestors come to offer advice, which plays an important part in her future plans as well as those of her sanctimonious brother and Hangtown's resident lawyer, a man who might have been her childhood sweetheart.

Heidi Broadhead's script is constructed on several levels: the characters speak of doing "scenes" or don professorial spectacles to address us from an imaginary downstage podium. And Aunt Juniper carols playful dance-hall ditties from time to time in defiance of her more churchly kin. This many conceits could easily become chaotic, but Ned O'Reilly's dexterous direction quickly dispels the initial genealogical confusion, establishing characters and their eras despite a uniformly youthful cast.

In fact the discussions are so stimulating and the personalities so distinct that by the time Eva finally chooses between Hangtown simplicity and big city glamour, we hardly care. Mere mortals and their petty decisions cannot help but be less entertaining than Broadhead's jolly clan of shades, speaking their minds with the fearless candor and wisdom that are the special province of the dead.

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