Liars and Angels: An Evening of Deception and Forgiveness | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Liars and Angels: An Evening of Deception and Forgiveness

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LIARS AND ANGELS: AN EVENING OF DECEPTION AND FORGIVENESS, Actors Workshop Theatre. Playwright Clifford Morts knows where to take the provocative premises of his three one-acts in "Liars and Angels." But he pursues them long after they've ceased to be provoking and grown merely annoying.

In Promotion to Glory, a Salvation Army officer at heaven's gates is upbraided for executing his earthly duties inhumanely. In The Liar and Norman Mailer, the titular writer is harassed by a stranger in the park--yes, just like in Edward Albee's The Zoo Story. And in The Language of Cherubs, a dying woman forgives her husband for his prodigious sins. In each case, it quickly becomes apparent where Morts's sympathies lie: the uniformed evangelist defends himself with the flimsiest of cliches, for example, and the grieving husband is permitted less than a dozen words in reply to his wife's accusations.

As directed by Jason Daniels, Jamie Kelsey, and Marisa Sanders, the actors strive mightily to sustain whatever suspense there might be in these biased exercises. Lori Garrabrant's celestial gatekeeper and Eric Hoffmann's muscle-boy angel connect for a few moments; Sam Perry delivers a curiously understated portrait of Mailer; and Jan Ellen Graves carries off a 45-minute monologue with grace and stamina. But the general dynamic of these plays--one character browbeating another with no prospect of reversal--holds little interest.

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