Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Soul of a Clone

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Upstream Theater, based in Saint Louis, makes its local debut with this clever riff on Franz Kafka's short story "A Report to an Academy," about a captured ape who wills himself to become human to gain a semblance of freedom. In director Philip Boehm's conception, the report takes the form of a history lecture by the grandson of Fritz the ape along with hilarious "found footage" allegedly shot by Fritz at the 1904 Saint Louis World's Fair. The grandson cogently summarizes Kafka's tale, describing how his grandfather "in one great leap vaulted the ancient chasm of the species by draining an entire bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label and shouting 'Hey buddy!'" But the piece works best when it updates Kafka's dyspepsia about the limitations of being human, commenting on the zero-sum game of consumerism--"the mock suffrage of the supermarket aisle." Judging from the videotape of this hour-long show (presented here by the Chopin Theatre and Goethe-Institut Chicago), it has some windy patches. But Natasha Rubinstein's gorgeous rendition of Bach's Cello Suite no. 2 at the end more than compensates for them, proving that humans' climb out of the primordial muck has given them the ability to create truly transcendent work on occasion. Sun 5/8, 4 PM. Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 773-278-1500. $8-$12.

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