Johnny 100 Pesos | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Johnny 100 Pesos

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A heist-gone-awry thriller with ironic political overtones, Johnny 100 Pesos is based on an actual hostage crisis that took place in Chile in 1990. What starts out as an attempted robbery of a black-market currency exchange in Santiago turns into a hostage situation and media circus when the hapless bandits are mistaken for terrorists. The Germany-based Chilean director Gustavo Graef-Marino, who cowrote the script, creates plenty of tension by crosscutting between the two sides of the hostage drama. Barricaded in the currency exchange is a motley crew of desperados and its not-so-sympathetic bargaining chips. Pressuring them from the outside are officers of the newly democratic government, the fascist head of the military police, and tabloid-TV journalists. Much of the narrative's (and the media's) focus, however, is on the title character, a teenager from the barrio with a dead-end future (portrayed with wide-eyed intensity by Armando Araiza). What has happened to him is at once an indictment of an impotent democracy and a caustic condemnation of sound-bite media. Graef-Marino is a skillful and empathic storyteller whose tone veers between the manic frenzy of Dog Day Afternoon and the cynicism of Ace in the Hole. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday, December 8, 7:00 and 9:00; Saturday and Sunday, December 9 and 10, 3:00, 5:00, 7:00, and 9:00; and Monday through Thursday, December 11 through 14, 7:00 and 9:00; 281-4114.

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