Sexual Perversity in Chicago, SuckerPunch Theater, at Stage Left Theatre. The structure of David Mamet's intriguingly sour yet compassionate 1974 portrait of the Lincoln Park singles scene is influenced by the playwright's youthful stint as a busboy at Second City. Though it has a strong dramatic arc--the transformation of romantic naif Danny Shapiro into a misogynistic loser--Mamet's one-act takes the form of a Second City-style series of sketches.
That would seem to bode well for SuckerPunch Theater, whose members are affiliated with ImprovOlympic. But director Dunbar Dicks imposes a contemporary long-form improv sensibility on the material: stringing vignettes together with the aid of a roaring rock sound track, he loses the crisp comic rhythms of the classic blackout structure. The details of the opening scene, a Terry Southern-esque account of a hilarious sexual encounter, are mostly lost in the blaring noise. The actors also need to master the fascinating jagged rhythms of Mamet's street poetry.
Though SuckerPunch misses much of the script's wildly raunchy humor, the troupe does capture its underlying sadness. Ed Illades and Lauren Sharpe are honest and moving as young lovers Danny and Deborah, whose attempt at a live-in relationship is undermined by their neurotic, jealous mentor-friends. And like any other great play, this one offers new insights--into sex, betrayal, emotional violence, and fear of intimacy--with every production, even imperfect ones like this.