Power Pipes | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Spiderwoman Theater consists of two groups of sisters, the Colorados and the Miguels, as well as director Muriel Miguel's daughter Murielle Borst, and those connections are readily apparent in the fluidity and intimacy with which the ensemble's six members relate in this 90-minute, intermissionless performance piece. But Power Pipes is also concerned with a larger family--the indigenous Americans whose culture was trampled by the European explorers who arrived 500 years ago--and with the peculiar paradoxes of growing up an outsider in the land of one's ancestors. In this theatrical tapestry of music, monologues, and tableaux (the name Spiderwoman, taken from the Hopi creation goddess, refers to the group's technique of "weaving" a narrative), chanted rituals of healing and hunting segue into Top 40 pop songs; a family meal that three centuries ago would have centered on fresh corn instead revolves around Fritos; ancient processional dances share the stage with a pantomimed subway ride; and a woman's joyfully nostalgic account of a time-honored puberty rite is followed by another's recollection of being sexually assaulted while riding public transportation. Despite the gentle warmth and whimsy that characterizes the performers' attitudes, Power Pipes is suffused with a sense of loss--and an awareness of the cost and courage involved in maintaining and strengthening family ties--that makes for both an illuminating reflection of the American Indian experience and a moving meditation on the family as a universal but by no means sure thing. Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, 1852 W. 19th, 738-1503. September 11 through 20: Fridays-Sundays, 7:30 PM. $10.

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