Life is . . . Maintenance | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Life is . . . Maintenance

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LIFE IS . . . MAINTENANCE, at Pegasus Players. If journalists are interesting, it's because of what they've seen and the people they've met. John Callaway forgets this in his one-man show. His anecdotes about other people can be fascinating: "James Baldwin said, 'I am not a problem--I am a man.'" But mostly Callaway brags about hanging out in defunct nightspots with now forgotten celebrities. Doubtless he aspires to a roistering, Ben Hechtian persona, but what he suggests instead is a lonely retiree bending a stranger's ear.

Callaway's ostensible theme is addiction, a term he uses with unwonted casualness to describe his enthusiasms for Chicago, journalistic excitement, and food. Though he refers to heroic drinking bouts, he never confronts the possibility that these reflected a genuine problem. This echoes the show's overarching flaw: a failure to decide whether its model is The Front Page or The Oprah Winfrey Show. Callaway trivializes his developing relationship with God by talking about it in the same way he kids himself about his fleshly excesses ("I was getting to be a big man about town"). Though there are clever segments, including one considering all the interactions and possible side effects of his regimen of heart medicines, none is strong enough to sustain an entire evening, and the links between them are tenuous. At the end you'll know less about John Callaway than you learned watching Chicago Tonight--and care less, too.

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