Show and Tell | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

SHOW AND TELL, Dolphinback Theatre Company, at Angel Island. "A writer sets the circumstances and sees what the characters have to do," playwright Anthony Clarvoe has written. "If the circumstances are hard enough, anything the characters do must be essential." He proves himself exactly wrong in Show and Tell, however. He creates dire circumstances, all right: an explosion has killed every child in a kindergarten class, and their parents, the surviving teacher, and government officials must try to make sense of the tragedy. Unfortunately, almost nothing the characters do is essential. Like so many contemporary playwrights, Clarvoe meanders around the periphery of the story, dabbling in eccentric trivialities. Does it matter that the bereaved parents complain about the teacher's unorthodox methods, or that the government investigators can recognize the constellation of Orion, or that the teacher knows how to repair a belt sander? Rather than creating the sense of grotesque absurdity that might follow such a loss, Clarvoe renders his play heartless.

He tries to compensate with fits of poetic dialogue, few of which are plausible (when the lead investigator learns that a child may have brought an explosive to class for show-and-tell, he responds, "A souvenir is an object charged with time!"). The Dolphinback cast understandably never finds any meaningful stakes in the action, wandering through the evening in a daze. --Justin Hayford

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