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Scatting Grace: Ten Stories

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Raised by Wolves, at Urbus Orbis.

Penned by director John Sudar and other members of the Raised by Wolves ensemble, this evening of ten fragmentary, cryptic, despairing tales focuses on weakly articulate, pain-ridden people: a gangster boss haunted by the woman who got away, a hooker and her forlorn john, a south-side con artist who talks a mob enforcer into getting caught by the cops, a thwarted dancer, a woman torn up over lost love, two deeply dishing dining companions (clumsy, misogynistic drag roles) who get so sozzled they can't remember if they ordered lunch, and three incoherent couples mired in the dreariness of a rainy Monday afternoon.

Interrupting these actors' exercises and providing a comic counterpoint is a wacky obsessive who attempts to illustrate the danger of cupids through old masters illustrations. But however welcome, Dick Minto's halfhearted, half-baked humor can't change the general listlessness of this torturous show. The last thing you should do with dialogue this familiar is drag it out (especially in a space as warm as the Urbus Orbis back room). But these actors mumble their lines, pause frequently, and in general so drop the energy that it all seems a slow-motion parody. So tentative is the delivery, you wonder at times if the actors are making the lines up as they go along.

Sudar may be aiming at deeper truths than these familiar situations suggest, but given the lackadaisical, jerky performances, who can tell? Everything here might have seemed at least interesting if it had taken half as long to deliver.

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