Nancy Reilly | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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A member of the Wooster group since the early 80s, when she first appeared in L.S.D. (...Just the Highpoints...), the group's controversial deconstruction of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, Nancy Reilly has followed the lead of Wooster colleague Spalding Gray and turned solo. But unlike Gray and his polished public therapy sessions, Reilly reaches beyond herself, creating complex multicharacter scenes and playing all the parts. In The Gangster and the Barmaid, for example, Reilly plays not only a smart-ass, coked-out barmaid but also the clientele of the seedy "tit bar on Wall Street on Christmas Eve," including a drunk so demented that his order for a Pink Squirrel comes off as a slow-motion call for help. Likewise, in A Professional High, Reilly plays both a lonely, out-of-work New York actress and the puffed-up loser she dates. The results are portraits of urban alienation and sexual exploitation as powerful as any created by Karen Finley. Reilly has been called "the Gertrude Stein of the trailer park," but her flair for ironic narrative ("She would give anything but her real height") and her appropriation of a detective novel's poetry of despair ("This is a no-frills, cheap-thrills bar here. We don't make with the Mai Tais") recall the sardonic wit of William S. Burroughs. Club Lower Links, May 29 and 30 (954 W. Newport, 248-5238). Friday and Saturday, 9 PM. $10.

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

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