Quadruped | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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QUADRUPED, Neo-Futurarium. Solo performance is the cash calf of the new, about-to-be-post-NEA theater world. Artist-generated and easy to transport, it not only creates performance opportunities where there were none, but serves as a proving ground for writer-actors cutting their teeth on personal material. Too frequently, though, the performers' instincts to protect their own wounds obscure the stories that could pierce the audience's own callused consciousness; what comes out instead is guarded, overmanipulated, or dependent on cliches for any resonance at all. Quadruped, the final show in the Neo Mondo Solo '97 series at the Neo-Futurarium, applies the tough, productively wacky aesthetic of the Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind crew to the genre, and the result is an innovative alternative to the confessional pathos of the solo circuit. The four performers bring an impressive combination of whimsy and menace to their intimate explorations of personal histories: Stephanie Shaw--wickedly smart and currently very pregnant--casts her gluttonous family as characters from "Hansel and Gretel" and "Little Red Riding Hood" in "Good Eatin'," a fable about the evolution of her own appetites. In "String," John Pierson plays with linguistic and personal schizophrenia as he tries (not) to tell the story of his father's illness. "Spit It Out," in which Rachel Claff rehearses for a marriage to herself, repeatedly spitting water into the audience to announce "I do," is the most abstract and least effective of the four--and, not coincidentally, the only one that hides the specifics of the story in self-protective metaphor. And in Greg Allen's "My Father the Chair," reprised from the Rhino in Winter fest, he vividly evokes his late dad with brief but specific language and their relationship with a practiced and provocative physicality. At last, solo work that makes individual experience interesting, rather than straining so desperately to make it seem universal.

--Carol Burbank

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