Life and Limb | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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LIFE AND LIMB, Swing for the Fences Productions, at Stage Left Theatre. It's a miserable life trapped in Keith Reddin's Eisenhower-era parable of the American nightmare. Franklin Roosevelt Clagg returns from the Korean War minus an arm to watch his life fall apart. Hoping to buy a TV for his ignorant/innocent wife, Effie, Franklin settles for a job in an artificial-limb factory run by a sadistic army colleague. Husband and wife die pointlessly and end up in hell--another consumer wasteland.

Even if Reddin means to mock the American obsession with defining yourself by what you own, watching losers lose is a chump's game. Director Kurt Naebig's realistic treatment makes the play's mean-spirited overkill and quirky characterizations seem even more gratuitous and heavy-handed. But thanks to Johnny Clark's solid Franklin and Alexis Gladd's clueless but loyal Effie, this bleak love story comes to a kind of life, however dismal. Molly Glynn Hammond has imperious fun as Effie's dour Romanian confidant, but Daren Flam's odious prosthetics entrepreneur is by-the-numbers nasty.

What's missing from the playing as well as the writing is anger at the rotten deal that Franklin and Effie get--and, worse, expect. As a result their (mostly) mute suffering never inspires relief that we're not them or pity that so much misery teaches them so little.

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