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Needles and Opium

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"Alot of my taste for theater came from seeing concerts of Genesis and Jethro Tull," says Robert Lepage, the Quebec writer, director, performer, and designer who at 35 is artistic director of Canada's national theater and was recently named a knight of the Ordre des Arts et Lettres, one of Canada's highest artistic honors. His taste for spectacle is evident to anyone who saw his Dragon's Trilogy at the last International Theatre Festival or who caught Peter Gabriel's recent tour, for which Lepage designed the set and lights. Now he's back with Needles and Opium, his highly acclaimed solo performance about art, love, and addiction, coproduced by Performing Arts Chicago dejAvant. The piece was inspired by Lepage's discovery that surrealist artist Jean Cocteau and jazz trumpeter Miles Davis coincidentally both crossed the Atlantic for the first time, in opposite directions, in 1949, each visiting the other's city. When they returned, Davis took up heroin and Cocteau continued his lifelong opium habit. Lepage confirms his own place in this august and desperate company when his alter ego in the piece, Robert, checks into Jean-Paul Sartre's famous room in the Hotel de la Louisiane in Paris and indulges in his own addiction: his feelings for an estranged lover across the ocean, whom he desperately tries to reach. Lepage's magical yet straightforward stagecraft--at one point he's suspended between two propellers, yet his harness is clearly visible--promises to set a new standard for theatrical ingenuity in Chicago. Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield, 831-2822 or 664-3378. June 1 through 4: Wednesday and Friday, 7:30 PM; Saturday, 7 and 10:30 PM. $17.50-$22.50.

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