No matter how hard we work at anticipating or comprehending death, it's always a surprise. And yet we continue our paltry, puny, pathetic attempts to deal with it, to understand it, to give it meaning. That brazen, doomed effort is what makes Redmoon Theater's outdoor spectacle Long Live the King (the King Is Dead), first mounted last summer, so touching. To see a coffin laboriously transformed into a sailboat surrounded by hand-painted clouds on sticks or a papier-mache sun hoisted with much effort to shine with homemade splendor against real racing clouds is to understand the human experience of death. That's not to say that this show is one bit heavy or depressing--in fact it's full of all the things that make life joyful: food, love, sex, beautiful candy-colored clothing, babies, humor, music, art. Particularly delightful are the puppet shows that tell the royal family's history; the piquant character of the lazy, gluttonous maid; the plump, complacent king in his flying bed; and the family's towering home, with its platforms, golden chair, widow's walk, and plethora of toasters. And the kid verdict? The ten-year-old girl sitting next to me pronounced the piece "cool." Chicago Historical Society, Uihlein Plaza, 1601 N. Clark, 312-642-4600, ext. 339. Through August 19: Mondays-Fridays, 7 PM; Sundays, 3 and 7 PM. $10; $5 for children. --Laura Molzahn
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Katja Heinemann.