Rocket to the Moon | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Rocket to the Moon

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ROCKET TO THE MOON, Shattered Globe Theatre. Richly written and still haunting, Clifford Odets's Depression-era drama proclaims a credo the playwright also advanced in Awake and Sing! and Waiting for Lefty: Squander life and you die early. Here Ben Stark, a Manhattan dentist nearing 40 and trapped in a marriage of convenience, succumbs to a seven-year-itch for Cleo Singer, his young receptionist. He's nearly paralyzed by sheer habit and good intentions, but Cleo is memorably fearless, a survivor unburdened by brains but smart about her heart. Loneliness and poverty force her to act on her dreams and invent a life--and to Odets, that's the lie that creates a truth.

Louis Contey's 60th-anniversary staging gives the play the same sterling authenticity he gave Shattered Globe's All My Sons, A View From the Bridge, and A Streetcar Named Desire. Doug McDade grounds glum Ben in personal depression--though later Ben blooms like the flowers in his window box. Rebecca Jordan looks more experienced than she should as Cleo but conveys the heartache of a needy woman whose generosity may well undo her. As Ben's hard-eyed, sad-sack wife, Eileen Niccolai leaves no doubt of the price Ben will pay to ride his rocket to the moon. In the complex role of Ben's manipulative, life-gobbling father-in-law, Rich Baker refuses to go gentle into any good night. And Joe Forbrich, hilariously deadpan as a worldly-wise podiatrist, forcefully delivers Odets's hard-won love lore.

--Lawrence Bommer

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