In the Flesh | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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What do you do when you have a hit show whose powerful impact is due partly to the tiny space it's performed in? That was the dilemma faced by director-playwright Charley Sherman, whose inventive horror drama In the Flesh was aided considerably in its original run last fall by the intimacy of the Organic Theater's studio. Seeking to accommodate a larger audience, Sherman and his talented design team set out to revamp the play for the Organic's main stage; the remounting also gave Sherman and Steve Pickering a chance to rewrite their play, an adaptation of a story by British fantasy author Clive Barker, to delve more deeply into its themes of faith, sacrifice, and death and resurrection. Though it's inevitably lost some of the earlier staging's claustrophobic intensity, the work has gained in depth thanks to richer lead performances and greater somberness and severity of tone (which is not to ignore the script's rich vein of dark, satiric humor). This weirdly provocative, visually imaginative tale of two prisoners--a boy seeking contact with his dead grandfather (an executed mass murderer), and his older cellmate, whose cynicism is shaken by the results of the youth's supernatural quest--is a remarkably potent theatrical nightmare thanks to haunting performances by Jeff Atkins as the boy, Maurice Chasse as his cellmate, and Ray Wild as the sardonic narrator (all holdovers from last fall), and by newcomer Jim Mohr as the grim granddad from hell. Organic Theater Company, 3319 N. Clark, 327-5588. Through May 30: Thursdays, 8 PM; Fridays, 9 PM; Saturdays, 6 and 9:30 PM; Sundays, 7 PM. $15-$17.50.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Arnold Stellema.

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