Softcops | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

SOFTCOPS, Green Highway Theater, at Stage Left Theatre. If you've read Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish, his landmark investigation into the birth of the modern Western penal system, then Caryl Churchill's Softcops, based on Foucault's book, won't offer you much. Lacking the political sophistication and theatrical flair of her best work, Churchill's play glosses Foucault's monumental work in Cliffs Notes fashion. She sets it in mid-19th-century France, just as the public torture of criminals is losing favor despite the zealous efforts of one man to spice up the gruesome spectacles with costumes, music, and rehearsed speeches. But his proposed antics are replaced with a new, nonpublic system: isolation, supervision, and surveillance. Criminals are removed from public view, and the techniques used to police them become the standards of conduct in business, education, and health care. Despite grandiose themes, Churchill's play is essentially a staged term paper, draining most of the blood from Foucault's inspired work.

If you haven't read Foucault, Green Highway's production of Softcops is not the place to start. Director Janel Winter flattens what little action the text provides by encouraging big, superficial performances from a self-conscious cast. The company seems not to have decided what the play is about, and as a result the scenes run on automatic. Go read the book. --Justin Hayford

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →