Smokers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Michael Martin's latest work resembles Richard Linklater's film Slacker in at least one respect: there's no central narrator. In Smokers, 25 actors play nearly four dozen characters, maneuvering awkwardly around the cramped Lunar Cabaret stage, their individual stories moving in and out of focus. It's a cool device, not only for the way it mirrors the attention-grabbing tactics of the film's handheld camera but because it forces the audience to look beyond the play's serpentine narratives and concentrate on the larger picture: the essence of being a smoker. To be more precise, Smokers is concerned with what transpires during the seven and a half minutes it takes to smoke a cigarette and the society in miniature formed when two or more essentially unlike people are thrust together and forced to interact. Martin's observations are always on point, whether he's showing the desperate measures people take to be part of a group or skewering individual peccadilloes. And the actors in this Great Beast Theater production--smokers, ex-smokers, and nonsmokers alike--portray their creatures of habit with such natural ease that even the most obscure moments are accessible. Smokers isn't always pretty, but it does a great job of making the ugly seem pretty. Saturday, October 7, 8 PM.

--Nick Green

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