Quartett | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Over the past few years, members of the Curious Theatre Branch have become de facto cultural ambassadors, touring their work regularly to Halle, an industrial town in what was East Germany. It has a thriving avant-garde performance scene, and fortunately for Chicago--where the International Theatre Festival died a pointless death--Curious Theatre has also invited a number of adventurous German performers to join its Rhinoceros Theater Festival. For the past two years they've presented Klangbuhne Guricht, a noisy troupe of absurdist pranksters, as well as solo saxophone marvel Gert Anklam. This year they've brought over Halle's classically trained Theater im Quadrat and its production of Heiner Müller's Quartett. One of the most innovative and politically demanding playwrights in post-Brecht Germany, Müller based his 1981 play on Pierre Choderlos de Laclos' scandalous 1782 novel, Les liaisons dangereuses. In Müller's version, Madame de Merteuil and Valmont--who merely write letters in the original--act out their seductions, often switching roles and reversing genders. Drawing on the work of Schiller, Goethe, Büchner, Nietzsche, Artaud, and Genet, Müller paints a bleak but exhilarating portrait of sexual self-destructiveness so extreme it brings down most of Western culture with it. The performance is in German with an English synopsis in the program. On the same bill is 4 x 4, a movement-theater piece by Chicago's dynamic Plasticene ensemble. Lunar Cabaret, 2827 N. Lincoln, 773-327-6666. September 17 and 18: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. Quartett is also performed Monday, September 20, at 8 PM on a double bill with The Lucky Ones, performed by the Curious Theatre Branch. The price for these double bills is $15. --Justin Hayford

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