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Kilt; Anatomy of Revenge

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KILT, Bailiwick Repertory, and ANATOMY OF REVENGE, Bailiwick Repertory. Jonathan Wilson's Kilt is the better of the two muddled, mediocre plays now onstage at Bailiwick. This dramedy about identity features a young gay man, Tom (Scot Carlson), who's abandoned the family tradition of Scottish dancing but wears the kilt he inherited from his grandfather as an exotic dancer. When his grandfather dies, Tom travels back to Scotland with his disapproving mother (a wry Ruth Neaveill, the best thing about the production), where he learns the truth about his war-hero relative, told in flashback by the grandfather, also played by Carlson. This experience allows Tom to reconnect with his family and bolster his wavering self-confidence.

Wilson's plot is so tired that we connect the dots long before Tom ever gets on a plane. The characters have potential, but the trite, meandering story insults our intelligence.

Michael Rougas's Anatomy of Revenge is wince inducing for a different reason. A premiere, it seems a throwback to the angry AIDS plays of the 80s, offering nothing new and using the threat of AIDS to boost the fear that being gay is dark and dangerous: the protagonist, Roger, seems to be saying that the plague makes gay culture a wasteland. But oddly, none of his friends dies of AIDS but rather from drug-related or homophobic violence.

The protagonist himself (a mousy Patrick Rybarczyk) is beaten and left for dead by Voltaire (Ron Ward), a young loser he picks up. This story should be particularly resonant in Chicago, where two gay men seem to have met similar fates recently. But by the end of the play we're practically rooting for Voltaire, who suffers awfully at Roger's hands even though he's in prison. Worse, in a twist at the end, Rougas takes a pathetic stab at making the play about something other than gratuitous violence and nudity.

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