Phantasia & Wyrd's Sybaritic Shadow Show | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Phantasia & Wyrd's Sybaritic Shadow Show


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Phantasia & Wyrd's Sybaritic Shadow Show, Tangerine Arts Group, at the Berger Park Cultural Center, through November 23. Part wraparound spectacle, part carnival grift, the pageant begins as you're handed a fistful of tickets and ushered into a sideshow, where you can play with a plasma ball, have your cards read, or frolic with an interactive portrait until the show starts. Enjoy yourself, get loose, and by all means slam some coffee before you arrive, because later on passive viewing isn't in the offing.

A domineering ringmistress calls the crowd to order and bestows masks on a trio of performers, who melt voluptuously into their archetypal roles; the rest of the evening is something like a cutthroat improv class, with the audience compelled to participate. Some games are easy, others a physical and mental struggle; there's no way of knowing until you've stepped up and handed over your ticket.

All in all it's a worthwhile experiment, as fulfilling as the paying "contestants" make it. The cast are all talented physical performers, and a stripped-down band provides limber, evocative accompaniment. But what exactly the company is shooting for, and whether it's worth the uninhibited eruptions the show provokes, is open to debate. The final round of riddles is a maddening, strident cross between The McLaughlin Group and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which the night I attended produced an ugly if electric confrontation between player and ref.

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