Steep Theatre presents Pornography | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Performing Arts Review

Steep Theatre presents Pornography


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Simon Stephens's 2007 play is meant to be disturbing—and succeeds at it even in ways that Stephens may not have intended. Set in London during the first week of July 2005, Pornography comprises a string of more or less self-contained vignettes in which an angry employee commits corporate sabotage, siblings try incest, a professor leverages his power over a former student, an old lady samples online porn, and a teenager indulges antisocial fantasies. Then there's the vignette involving a fictionalized version of Mohammad Sidique Khan, one of four British jihadists who attacked London's transit system on July 7, 2005, killing 52 people. I think Stephens means to suggest a continuum between his Khan and the lonely, socially alienated souls in the other scenes: same disease, greater and lesser degrees of virulence. But a continuum implies an equivalency, and that's hard to accept. Can you really draw a line from, say, the corporate saboteur to a mass murderer? Creepier still is the implication that the crimes committed by the other characters somehow led to Khan's atrocity. Well, then, if I have all these reservations about the show, why am I recommending it? Partly because Robin Witt's production for Steep Theatre is so incredibly sharp, with nothing but smart, clear-eyed performances. And partly because it's worth something to be so unsettled.

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  → 

Add a comment