Life During Wartime | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Life During Wartime

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Life During Wartime, Steep Theatre Company, at Strawdog Theatre Company. First performed here in the late Michael Maggio's 1993 staging for the Wisdom Bridge and Center theaters, Keith Reddin's dark comedy focuses on our often paranoid search for security at any cost, a search Reddin roots in fears brought about by John Calvin's menacing concepts of predestination and original sin. But when Tommy, a salesman for a home-security company with unsavory business practices, falls in love with a client, he discovers the perils of Calvinism's ideological antithesis: free will. Tommy's clumsy effort to love Gale and her teenage son triggers a tragedy that his indifference would have spared them. Was his desire to protect the ones he loved the very thing that got them killed?

With its Mametian tautologies and circular dialogue, Reddin's ironic script calls for a lighter touch than it gets in Joshua Polster's literally dark staging for this new company. (Four more lighting instruments would have made all the difference.) While the performances were sometimes threatened by technical troubles on opening night (a crucial prop was missing from the final scene), they were also sapped by a lack of momentum. Despite Alex Gualino's often touching portrayal of Tommy, each scene is less urgent than the one before it, and the story founders in a kind of entropy. But Brad Potts is dourly intriguing as Calvin, a killjoy whose smug pronouncements cry out to be contradicted.

--Lawrence Bommer

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