Lifeidreamedof, Center Theater Ensemble | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Lifeidreamedof, Center Theater Ensemble

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Lifeidreamedof, Center Theater Ensemble.

In America, land of dreams, just about any chump can hit the jackpot so long as he's willing to dump his scruples in the trash bin. And few ideas capture the American imagination the way a quick profit does. As one of the characters in Stephen P. Daly's powerful new play explains the nature of "reality" in our country: "How much does it cost and how long does it last?"

For most of us, "it" lasts only as long as those in power want it to, an idea Daly skillfully dramatizes. He takes the world of professional horse racing--where 90 percent of the purses go to 5 percent of the jockeys (those with good management)--and fills it with desperate, power-hungry deal makers drunk on dreams of Mafia-style loyalty to each other and to the industry even as they sell one another down the river for spare change. Taking his cue from David Mamet, Daly uses the characters' elaborately indirect talk to expose the corrupt power relations between these insecure, libidinally challenged men. In this world, where fortunes ride on favors, a thickly veiled word to the wise had better be sufficient.

Unfortunately, director Dan LaMorte can't seem to decipher Daly's code, instead encouraging his actors to play the surface and virtually ignore the subtext. As a result, the characters' relationships lack emotional depth, precious little drama develops, and the show--like the thoroughbred that gives the play its name--stumbles long before the finish line. Let's hope Daly's dynamite script gets a better treatment somewhere else soon.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/JoAnn Carney.

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