MISS LONELYHEARTS, A Sense of Urgency Productions, at Profiles Theatre. Director Edwin Wilson and writer Robert Dorjath had a great idea when they decided to adapt Nathanael West's 1933 novel for the stage. After all, Miss Lonelyhearts is so tightly written--the published version runs less than 100 pages--that a good adapter wouldn't lose much in the translation from page to stage. And the story is packed with West's trademark American-gothic grotesques--hard-boiled journalists, faithless lovers, downwardly mobile losers--more than enough to keep an inventive cast happy.
Sadly, Dorjath's tin-eared script accentuates the novel's two least stageworthy qualities: an often fragmented story line and scenes that end on an enigmatic note. And Wilson's awful casting and community-theater direction flatten what little survived Dorjath's bungling. This show features some of the least nuanced, least subtext-driven acting on display in Chicago, including an amazingly bad performance by Jonathan Schlossberg, whose clueless, emotionless reading of the play's lead is so monotonous only those who've read the book will know that West's protagonist is experiencing an extreme spiritual and emotional crisis. But why should Schlossberg bother when no one around him--with the exception of the lively, likable Jenny Patt--can summon up the energy to bring their characters to life? Frankly, I wish I'd spent the time sitting in the lobby rereading the novel. --Jack Helbig