Personals and Theater Therapy | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Personals and Theater Therapy

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Personals and Theater Therapy, Utopia Train and Performers' Workshop Ensemble, at Neo-Futurarium. Nothing ages faster than comedy based on current events. Just ask Mort Sahl. Or the Capitol Steps. Or the poor audience that last Friday had to sit through a dreary pair of one-act comedies performed by Utopia Train and the Performers' Workshop Ensemble, two entwined Champaign-Urbana-based companies renting space from the Neo-Futurists.

Theater Therapy, the stronger of the two plays, is packed with sly digs at President Bush, the gulf war, and the invasion of Panama--all topics that were much more relevant in the summer of '92, when this play premiered in Champaign. These days Panama feels no more topical than group therapy, which is also lampooned in the play--as are government officials denying the reality of Gulf War Syndrome and talk radio. Nevertheless the piece contains some nice comic acting--notably from Mark Enslin and William Gillespie--and a few successful bits about the potential for abuse in therapy.

But Personals consists of four painfully obvious comic sketches, all centered on a smug, self-satisfied personals-ad manager at a small local paper who thinks people who want to place ads for, say, a lost child really want to place a personals ad. Each sketch begins with a similarly mind-numbingly simple premise, and if you cut away the fat you'd have nothing left. But then that wouldn't be such a bad thing.

--Jack Helbig

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