Lexis Praxis: Chicago Writers Taken to Stage, Zebra Crossing Theatre. As the title ("words and action") suggests, this off-night installment in Zebra Crossing's storytelling and poem-spinning series pushes prose and poetry into performance. No staged recitations, the selections are acted or danced to explore or exploit the authors' subtexts and symbols.
Sometimes the 75-minute program waxes arcane, as in the densely textured multimedia treatment of Paul Hoover's poem The Novel, a tale of unrequited love that in Catherine Head's cryptic staging wanders from the writer to a reader to the work itself. Direct and poignant where Hoover eludes, Sonia Sanchez's elegiac Norma is a vividly danced memory of a Mississippi math genius subdued by hard luck. As the narrator in Mignon McPherson's smooth staging, Lydia Gartin blends warmth with authority, and Tijuana Gray glumly portrays fated Norma.
Eric Rosen's direction offers rich justice to the ecstatic musings of Alan Shefsky's Thinking About Amelia; Gabra Zackman plays the woman who delights in the way maps test boundaries and measure certainties--inspired by the doomed aviatrix, she indulges in literal flights of fancy. Though brightly staged, Amanda Selwyn's dramatization of scenes from The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros's marvelous coming-of-age tale, distractingly emphasizes movement over content. A similar physicalization does less harm to the medical meditations of pathologist F. Gonzalez-Crussi, accompanied by Matt Minde's subtle guitar score. Director Amy Fenton inventively stages the playwright's observations on androgyny, love as a reconnection, and the clash between flesh and mind.