Jumping off the Train is Prohibited: And Other Stories, Open Eye Productions and the Tightrope Collective, at Stage Left Theatre. An episodic show conceived by young players following the usual improv-comedy demographics that purports to "communicate...the ways in which the living, breathing city affects us" would normally be an invitation to the shrill delivery of mean-spirited "satire." This ensemble, however, trusts its own perceptions, making Jumping From the Train Is Prohibited: and Other Stories a surprisingly honest, cliche-free, and downright sweet look at life in the big city.
The chief theme of this hour-long program is the tension between passive conformity and taking charge of one's own destiny. A briefly adulterous couple debate whether to reveal their transgression. Two former classmates, one a corporate success and the other a street musician, attempt to renew their friendship. A CTA passenger recounts how divine intervention in an unexpected form prevented her suicide. Even explorations of standard-issue revue subjects have some originality. The nosy neighbor in "The Mayor" is creepy but not cartoonish, and "On the Edge" raises enough questions about romantic illusion, sexual harassment, and emotional blackmail to provide material for a full-length play.
This late-night offering makes no attempt to dazzle us with its cleverness, but the players' intelligent approach to their subjects sends us home with plenty to contemplate. --Mary Shen Barnidge