Play | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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Play

Samuel Beckett was surprisingly inflexible when it came to creative interpretations of his plays. He once sued to stop a production of Endgame because director JoAnne Akalaitis had changed the setting from a nondescript home to a subway station. God knows how he would have reacted to Joanna Settle's idea for Play, his short one-act about three characters who relive again and again a triangle gone awry: she's set it in a store window. The funny thing is that the production is remarkably faithful to Beckett's intent despite the gimmicky premise--tailor-made for the gawking crowds at Around the Coyote--and the high-tech tricks that allow the actors to be heard on the street. Mark Bello's simple, inexpensive set--three urns in a dark room--reproduces fairly well the classic design for this work. And Settle's performers (A. Deacetis, M. Rodgers, and K. Taber) speak their lines with the kind of crisp, intelligent clarity that only actors who know and love their Beckett can achieve. Even more delightful is how gracefully they negotiate the play's mood swings, winning laughs one minute with the blackest of jokes, moving us the next with the richness and perversity of Beckett's characters. To paraphrase something Settle told me after a run-through, this work may seem minimalist, but once you delve into Beckett's words you discover an infinity in his grains of sand. The mischievous Irishman in him might also appreciate a production that uses the conventional elements of a department-store window--a stark but engaging setting, people in otherworldly poses, sound piped to the streets--to reincarnate his austere work. Right-On Futon, 1184 N. Milwaukee, 773-342-6777. September 9 through 12: Thursday, 8:30, 9:30, and 10:30 PM; Friday-Saturday, 8:30, 9:30, and 10:30 PM and midnight; Sunday, 8:30, 9:30, and 10:30 PM. Free.

--Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited theater still.

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