Laughing Like Wild | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Laughing Like Wild

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LAUGHING WILD, Broad Shoulders Theatre. Christopher Durang's acerbic 1987 look at two misfits takes the form of two intricately linked monologues: a female screamer and an affirmation-spouting gay man try to stay sane despite AIDS, the depletion of the ozone layer, and their own explosive neediness.

Durang uses the unnamed pair to wage his usual war against Catholic dogma and the hypocrisy of homophobes, but what wins out is his often unsung compassion. Though the man seems paralyzed by his expectations of failure and the woman--who attacks the man at a supermarket--is far too uninhibited, they can still connect in their dreams. In a kind of harmonic convergence mirroring the 1987 planetary lineup, they calm each other, not through the cheap miracles they crave but through deep breathing. It's the only intervention we deserve, Durang implies.

Jon C. Sevigny's staging captures much of the gallows humor, never enlarging the play's outsize breakdowns into downright assaults on reality. What's still missing, mostly from Sara Elesh's anguished nut case, is the desperation that fuels the characters' volatility, the knife-edge unpredictability that made Kate Goehring unforgettable in Bailiwick Repertory's 1989 local premiere. This is not existential stand-up comedy but a cry for help--quoting Beckett, "laughing wild amid severest woe." Michael Foos fares better in a part that loses less when the character is unthreatening and even likable.

--Lawrence Bommer

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