Poor, Poor Lear, A Walk About Theater Company, at Breadline Theatre. Here 29-year-old Finnish writer-performer Nina Sallinen plays 80-year-old Finnish actress Nina Sallinen, a grande dame who invites the audience into her small apartment to see her farewell performance, a solo production of King Lear. As Sallinen acts out all the parts herself, with the help of hats, makeshift props, and puppets, it becomes apparent that her own life has sad parallels with Lear's: she too has suffered at the hands of greedy, neglectful children.
For anyone of any age to deliver an intelligent, tragicomic rendition of King Lear with no supporting cast is astonishing. That Sallinen can do it within the persona of a heartbreaking old woman is beyond extraordinary. Inhabiting her persona fully, Sallinen also greeted the audience in the theater's foyer. She seemed to maintain a personal connection with each audience member throughout the evening. And she served coffee and sponge cake at intermission, becoming the wonderfully eccentric great-grandmother or ancient aunt of every family.
Theater junkies especially will appreciate this evening of clear, original writing presented with artistry and integrity. And Sallinen is undoubtedly the type of performer who will make her character evolve and continually surprise her audiences. I look forward to seeing what else the new A Walk About Theater Company will bring to Chicago. --Kim Wilson