Journeys | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

JOURNEYS, Circle Theatre. When Circle Theatre's cofounder Wayne Buidens died in 1993 of AIDS, Karen Skinner, the other founder, reflected on the experience in her journals. But the decision for Evan Blake to adapt her musings, creating a tribute to Skinner's artistic partner, was a risky one. Despite the courage and vulnerability of the project, Journeys is an homage that will appeal mainly to people close to the company.

Neither Skinner nor Blake had enough objectivity to cut the lengthy narrated segments, which make Jerri (Skinner's character, played by Mary Ann Bowman) into an unsympathetic, joyless drone. Her meditations on the unfairness of life, appropriate to a journal but unrevealingly bland, interrupt the energy of pivotal scenes. And despite Michael Pacas's stylish turn as Ben (Buiden's character), the play drags through an oddly flat plot. Illness, death, and grief are resolved in a sweet haunting that might have worked if the script hadn't signaled exactly what we're supposed to think and feel at every moment.

Producing this play must have been a comfort to Skinner and her company. The enthusiastic, earnest actors are clearly committed to the project. Unfortunately, audiences outside the Circle circle won't meet any theatrically compelling characters here--only familiar abstracted mourners whose uniqueness disappears in a grieving dream of the idealized dead. --Carol Burbank

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