Museum | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Museum, Boxer Rebellion Ensemble. Tina Howe's play turns audience members into flies on the wall of a contemporary art museum. The main event: "Broken Silence," a series of identical blank, white canvases with names like Landscape #7. Surrounding works include a display of bodies fully clothed in social costumes--wedding dress, pin-striped suit--hung from a clothesline and a group of 3-D collages pieced together from sticks, bones, feathers, and other natural materials. This collection lends itself to all types of viewer reactions, delivered by a cast of 15 actors in constantly changing costumes and characters: puzzled stares, condescending criticism, passionate overinterpretation, and unabashed cackling. The one constant throughout is a security guard (Keith Ellis), who functions alternately as petty dictator (keeping photographers from taking unauthorized snapshots), would-be Casanova (having verbal sex with a patron), and macho lawman (one-upping his fellow security officers).

Eavesdropping is fun, especially when you're listening to people--the pretentious, the clueless--who make you feel a bit superior. Still, Museum's lack of a cohesive story sometimes makes it seem like 38 characters in search of an author. Howe offers a few meaty scraps, as when Tink (Tara Sullivan) tells how she discovered one artist's disturbing animalistic tendencies. They're delicious, but too brief and infrequent to be fully satisfying.

--Kim Wilson

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