Spirits to Enforce | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Spirits to Enforce



"All happy endings are problematic," reflects the telemarketing team leader in Spirits to Enforce, "as they invariably involve the continuation of life." In this Theater Oobleck play, being remounted after a sold-out run last April as part of the PAC/edge festival, playwright Mickle Maher sketches the aftermath of Prospero's cut-and-run exit from wizardly dominion in The Tempest: with wry, speculative genius, Maher maps its metaphors of abdication onto the text of his melancholy "sequel." After Prospero departed, we're told, Ariel and Caliban briefly made peace, constructing a marine metropolis, Fathomtown, around their island home; when Caliban betrays him, Ariel joins with other spirits to combat his diabolical malice. The 12 superhero "enforcers" finally "triumph," but retreat from 400 years of crime fighting to put on a celebratory staging--which they're promoting boiler room-style--of their own backstory, The Tempest itself. Lost in their project, they refuse to intervene as evil conquers the city, until finally they're beset by a crowd of supervillains--their opening-night audience--led by Professor Cannibal (the renamed Caliban). Very little has changed since the show's first run: a long Last Supper-style table still constitutes the set, 12 telephones the props, and only a couple roles have been recast (it all allegedly takes place in a submarine, but you have to use your imagination). Maher's eldritch, elegiac lyricism and gentle affection for his offbeat characters make the play more than an abstract pleasure, and the cast of fringe-circuit stars negotiates the piece's drifting choral structure of overlapping sales pitches with accomplished grace. Under cover of this impressionistic surface, Maher hunts big intellectual game, extracting from the Bard's watery symbology a dazzling algebra of memory, identity, and the fluid but fixing cruelty of time. With Lisa Black, David Isaacson, Guy Massey, Colm O'Reilly, and Diana Slickman. Curious Theatre Branch, 7001 N. Glenwood, 773-347-1041. Through January 17: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 PM; no show Thursday-Saturday, December 25-27. $10.

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