No End of Blame | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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No End of Blame

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NO END OF BLAME, TimeLine Theatre Company, at the Flat Iron Building. Politically ardent British playwright Howard Barker pays dark tribute to Hungarian cartoonist Bela Veracek (1898-1973), a ruthless chaser of truth and freedom and foe of nationalism and ideology. Running afoul of censors on both the right and left, Veracek eventually succumbed to madness: the truth did not set him free.

Barker pursues irony the way the cartoonist sought the spontaneous stroke. We're shown the hapless rebel trying to sketch life in the trenches during World War I, being expelled from a Budapest academy for preferring the immediacy of caricature to the craft of portraiture, and enraging Lenin and Stalin by repudiating socialist realism. Seeking refuge in supposedly tolerant Britain, he became "Vera," a cartoonist for the Daily Mirror, and triggered the wrath of Winston Churchill and Lord Beaverbrook for not being sufficiently patriotic or funny. Refusing to take sides, Veracek found that no one took his.

Barker's wary respect shows in every well-crafted scene, but unfortunately he assumes his audience is familiar with Veracek. Instead of lining the stage walls with newspapers, TimeLine Theatre should have hung examples of the cartoonist's work. Despite erratic accents and some incomprehensible screaming, Barry Brunetti's staging gives this cautionary tale an impressive fervor. Stephen Davis paints Veracek in the bold colors of solid rage, as if the poor guy never knew a calm moment.

--Lawrence Bommer

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