Never in My Lifetime | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Never in My Lifetime


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Never in My Lifetime, Circle Theatre. The city is occupied by foreign troops sent to suppress outbreaks of violence between the country's warring factions. Civilians live in fear of guerrilla terrorists--local girls caught fraternizing with soldiers risk mutilation by their countrymen. Casual conversation focuses on bombings, lootings, and body counts. The source of the conflict is religious and dates back centuries.

No, this isn't Baghdad. It's Belfast in the mid-1970s--the worst place for an Irish colleen and a British Tommy to fall in love. But while Romeo and Juliet at least tried to escape their feuding kinsmen, the lovers in Shirley Gee's play are limited to an occasional tryst barely ten miles from spying eyes. And when the inevitable finally overtakes them, the survivors can only cry out in despair, "Someone has to help us soon!"

What Circle Theatre hoped to accomplish in 2003 with Gee's shrill 1984 portrait of civil dysfunction is unclear. Still, the actors throw themselves into their roles with an agitprop intensity, spitting forth censure in irrefutable accents (thanks to dialect coach Susan Philpot) until the air is thick with rage and rancor. In the end, however, Gee's play leaves us with a call to arms--and no one against whom to arm. Essentially it's good only for a hankie wring over innocents lost to misguided patriotism.

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