Stick Knife Here | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Stick Knife Here

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STICK KNIFE HERE, Theatre Corps, at Viaduct Theatre. Though it may at times lack the clockwork precision or accessibility of Charlie Chaplin's best material, Theatre Corps' new ensemble piece owes an awful lot to the great silent film comedians of the early 1900s. The influence of Buster Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle, in particular, is undeniable: Stick Knife Here--with its deep undercurrent of violence and innuendo--is clearly clowning for adults. Director Blake Montgomery's fixation on murder, death, and defilement is evident from the opening scene, in which a sandwich board in a funeral home proclaims the body in the casket to be "today's special" and one of the mourners eulogizes their dearly departed leader as a "son of a bitch."

As with last year's PD: Position Doubtful, this collaborative piece combines slapstick antics, pure clowning, and commedia dell'arte sight gags to great effect. Montgomery and his nine-member troupe convey a deep understanding of the ensemble aesthetic; this piece is full of tiny epiphanies, scenes where every performer is working in tandem (a Lewis Carroll-style tea party, a speeding train barreling toward a damsel in distress) to create moments of pure visual poetry. What Stick Knife Here lacks, however, is a more cohesive through line for its rich images and non sequiturs. Montgomery has done well in allowing his cast free rein to create a world where comedy and brutality are essentially interchangeable; a narrower focus could only drive that disturbing point home further. --Nick Green

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