Still Life | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Still Life, Grassroots Theatre Company, at Sheil Park. Emily Mann's 1981 play, set in 1978, is mostly about the legacy of Vietnam, but it's also about marital abuse, substance abuse, the destructive influence of the Catholic church, the therapeutic amorality of art, the emasculation of American men, the problems that come from having houses, dogs, children, and large dinner parties. Mark is a marine veteran turned artist whose wartime experiences influence his photography. Cheryl, his pregnant wife, seeks comfort in alcohol and amphetamines. And Nadine is a fellow artist whose own past enables her to respond to Mark's violent creative vision.

Mann presents this information in three interwoven, nonlinear monologues that make it hard to maintain continuity. Moreover, the characters rarely move from their chairs, and they address us rather than one another, making them little more than talking heads reciting text. Under the direction of Daniel Foss, Brett Baughman as Mark and Lisa Herceg as Nadine project enough irony to engage our sympathies, but Mary McGloin never persuades us that Cheryl's circumstances have forced her to grow up. --Mary Shen Barnidge

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