Pocket Change | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Pocket Change

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POCKET CHANGE, Organic Theater. An exercise in naturalism set in a series of crummy low-rent bars, Scott Anderson's new play is more watchable than most of its kind. His plot revolves loosely around Johnny, a decent guy with no job and not much purpose until he hears that his best friend was badly beaten up in a barroom brawl. His quest for vengeance leads us on a tour of bartenders and buddies, all with personality quirks to spare.

The refreshing thing about Pocket Change is its gentleness. You never suspect Anderson of poking fun at his characters, mostly male blue-collar denizens of urban taverns. Johnny's macho swagger disintegrates fairly predictably, but in an appealing twist he discovers the pathos of his own behavior without casting judgments on others, even when their actions mirror his own.

Anderson seems to be on the brink of a serious play about male friendship here, but his clever dialogue undermines that goal. His character sketches leave the performers lots of room for play but provide the audience with little to think about. The result isn't a bad hour of theater. Director Paul Frellick steers his excellent cast toward entertaining and lively performances: they fully inhabit a world lit only with neon beer signs.

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