M*A*S*H | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Marquee Theatre Company, at the Covenant United Methodist Church.

I read the original Richard Hooker novel, saw the Altman film, and grew up with the television show. And Tim Kelly's adaptation of the novel plays like an anemic version of the TV series at its sentimental worst. Bored with watching yet another castration of Hooker's excellent book, I had plenty of time to reflect on what brings this self-proclaimed "professional" production alarmingly close to community theater.

It wasn't the space. I've seen some fine shows in worse places than this church auditorium. It wasn't that the actors lacked earnestness or good intentions--in fact, they were so enthusiastic one's heart breaks a little at the thought of the beating they're about to take.

Here are six ways to tell if you're trapped in a room with an amateur production: (1) Exits and entrances are sloppy and unfocused. (2) Neither director nor actors seem to have any sense of pace. (3) Actors consistently knock over tables (and their contents) during blackouts. (4) Acting and walking are mutually exclusive, so there are many long, empty pauses as the performers shamble to the correct spots to deliver their lines. (5) At some point an actor does an Alan Hale Jr. double take. (6) Most important, only the events of the play are presented, with no sense of what they mean or why they should be considered watchable.

I saw no clear reason to continue to watch the events in this M*A*S*H, so I can't tell you whether the Marquee Theatre Company miraculously saved themselves after the intermission--I left before the second act.

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