Pride's Crossing | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Pride's Crossing

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Pride's Crossing, Famous Door Theatre Company, at the Theatre Building. A strong ensemble carries this production through the script's difficulties, notably playwright Tina Howe's failure to resolve her central question: why would the unconventional Mabel Tidings, the first woman to swim from England to France, be so disastrously conventional in her choice of a husband? Howe portrays clearly the suffocating New England environment in which Tidings (well played by Hanna Dworkin) was raised, but at pivotal moments she flinches from depicting the ugliest aspects of that society, including hidden alcoholism and wife beating as well as not-so-hidden anti-Semitism. Still, the relationships are lovingly written and portrayed, drawing us in even as we protest, "Oh no, not the faithful Irish serving girl! Oh no, not the suitor whose impotence shows in his limp!"

Director Gary Griffin gracefully orchestrates the seven ensemble members' movement through the play's 20 roles, and he's devised an elegant closing image. But his casting choices raise more questions than they answer. Why are female characters often played by male actors and vice versa? That seems an overreaction to Mabel's throwaway line about how convenient it would be to change gender sometimes. She also says she's "tired of the rules," and maybe Griffin intends to expand on this by showing what happens when the rules are broken--the problem is, nothing does. Drag is just a distraction from the play's consideration of life choices and their consequences.

--Kelly Kleiman

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