Or | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Japanese performance collective Dumb Type basks in the cold light of pure reason as its members contemplate the space between life and death in OR, a title that refers to both operating rooms and binary systems--which of course don't offer any choice other than A or B, life or death. With its assaultive lighting, its weird sound design (the clicks, buzzes, and beeps of life-support machines as well as "soothing" waltz or jazz music), and its cruel vignettes of people posing as dogs on leashes, OR envisions the transition from life to death as a chilly intellectual passage as cold and lonely as a trip through the Alps. In fact Dumb Type uses the timeworn metaphor of life as a journey--in this case a car trip that will culminate in a vacation, where "once you arrive you will have all the time in the world. You will be a different person when you get there." Using first texts about and then a video of a car hurtling along the highway, OR catapults its performers--and us--into deck chairs where we can consider the prospect of endless leisure time. Despite some episodes that use hospital gurneys, OR doesn't have much to do with the messy business of dying, the necessary bodily insult and degradation. Only one sequence suggests the emotional and physical violence of leaving this life, when a mourner/nurse weeps and bellows and her patient silently opens his mouth and apes her cries. OR isn't exactly uplifting, but it does manage to suggest that the individual endures while what surrounds her is transitory. Museum of Contemporary Art, theater, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010. Opens Thursday, December 9, 8 PM. Through December 12: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 4 PM. $18. --Laura Molzahn

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