Life Under Water | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Life Under Water



Life Under Water, Old Nehamkin Theatre Company, at Stage Left Theatre. If you're trying to capture Richard Greenberg's elite New York milieu, you'd better know how to pronounce andiron and Isolde and understand that Proust does not rhyme with joust. Greenberg, the author of The American Plan and Eastern Standard, is not exactly Shakespeare, but he's a deft, wonderfully witty writer with a knack for romance that's virtually unequaled today. This early work--a lyrical one-act about the search for love among the country-club set--has all the trademark Greenbergisms: dreamy but naive men, fiercely intelligent but self-destructive women, and effervescent, highly literate dialogue.

The youthful Old Nehamkin Theatre Company, which showed surprising maturity last fall with a solid revival of Keith Reddin's Life and Limb, does not prove itself equal to Greenberg's script. Though John Badalamenti is uncommonly sympathetic as the drifting youth Kip, who quotes Nick Carraway and Holden Caulfield while becoming involved with a couple of odd au pairs in the Hamptons, much of the production is stiff and ill paced. The show is never awful, and there are some delightful scenes, especially those involving the ephemeral moments of tenderness between Kip and the Radcliffe dropout (Mandy Ratliff) he falls for. But Mark Hisler's perfunctory staging fails to deliver much of Greenberg's humor: the words often fall flat, as if neither Hisler nor the actors had bothered to figure out what the tough ones meant. --Adam Langer

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