Phyro-Giants! | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Phyro-Giants!, Roadworks Productions, at Victory Gardens Theater. Veteran TV writer Michael Blieden says he was inspired to write this script after a particularly lurid, drunken dinner conversation with some casual acquaintances. And over the course of 75 or so brisk minutes, his characters dance back and forth between a variety of taboo topics--adultery, criminal behavior, masturbatory fantasies--without ever passing judgment on one another's pathologies. The casual grace with which these thirtysomethings reveal their innermost lives is repeated in Blieden's sharp, incisive script. The naturalistic dialogue snaps with a supercharged comic energy, and the characters' revelations elicit a complex response: you may not love what the playwright has to say, but you have to love the way he says it.

Unfortunately Blieden ties up a very open-ended evening with an inexplicably neat climax. But Matt Tauber's smartly paced staging is exquisite. Danny McCarthy's macho asshole Joey and Beth Lacke's neurotic overachiever Alex stand out in an extremely strong cast, all of whom are fun to watch as their characters scramble to find moral centers amid all the soul pollution. The set--designed by Roadworks artistic director Geoffrey M. Curley--features a backdrop of suspended shards of white china; acting as a sixth performer, it's at once the least realistic and most tantalizing element of this engrossing, taut investigation into shattered lives.

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