Partial Objects | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Partial Objects


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PARTIAL OBJECTS, Urbus Orbis. Satan, like Dorothy, just wants to get home, in the eyes of Missouri playwright Sherry Kramer. In her newest full-length play, Partial Objects, a deeply sensitive Mephistopheles, banished from heaven, cuts a deal with lackluster lovers Julianna and Paris: in exchange for their souls he'll grant them one sublime moment when "love is enough." In this instant heaven will appear on earth, and the fallen angel will find his way home.

Kramer seems to have struck her own bargain with the devil, for the first half of Partial Objects is heavenly. Mephistopheles and Paris, and an unshakably droll narrator, appear in a handful of quick, sparsely written scenes in which the dark one grants his unsuspecting prey anything he wants. Paris flies Superman-style around the earth one minute and the next disarms all the nuclear missiles pointed at his parents' house. This clever, inventive, seductive first act is enhanced by director Victor D'Altorio's visually sophisticated, charmingly self-conscious staging and by his poignant portrayal of Mephistopheles.

But once the lovers strike their deal Kramer's script loses its soul, giving way to ponderousness and predictability. During the 30 years of the second act, the couple rarely get out of bed, enacting pedestrian "domestic moments" or delivering lengthy dialogue that pins up their tribulations like insects on a corkboard. Even with Satan posted at the foot of their bed for three decades, few novel complications arise, and Kramer's script, like her main character, wanders unsuccessfully in search of a meaningful destination.

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