Kingdom of Earth | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Kingdom of Earth

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Kingdom Of Earth, A Walk About Theater Company, at National Pastime Theater. The term "self-parody" was often used to describe Tennessee Williams's dramatic output in the latter part of his career. And certainly Kingdom of Earth (later retitled The Seven Descents of Myrtle) wastes no time on subtlety: consumptive, mother-obsessed Lot has married trashy waif Myrtle in order to prevent his earthy, embittered half brother Chicken from inheriting the family homestead. Will the storm raging outside cause a flood, forcing Chicken to the roof in the survival tactic that's earned him his nickname? Can Myrtle seduce Chicken into surrendering the document willing him the property? Or will she abandon her doomed husband for the stronger male?

Two unfeeling men bullying one frightened woman might have been rendered interesting by the possibility that the victim would turn on her tormentors. But while Peter DeFaria's Chicken and Coby Goss's Lot occasionally hint at subtextual depth, Nina Sallinen seems to have been instructed by director Kristan Schmidt to play Myrtle on one shrill, babyish note based more on the demands of a deep-south accent than on the complexities of her character. And since we're given no indication that Myrtle is struggling with important decisions--if only which abuser offers her the greater security--the only remaining question is whether the rain will break the levees. But even the special effect of the storm (expertly conjured up by Joey Wade, Paul Foster, and Chris J. Johnson) cannot create enough dramatic suspense to sustain a two-hour production this flawed.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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