I'm always surprised at how satisfying it is to be read to, to sit back and listen to someone else's voice while the imagination creates, from words alone, the perfect theater of the mind. Late last year when John Mahoney read aloud, in his cultivated, resonant voice, Stuart Dybek's wistful reminiscence Pet Milk, you not only saw, heard, tasted, and smelled everything the story's narrator described, but you couldn't help but feel his regret and nostalgia as he recalled a long-gone girlfriend. Modeled on New York director Isaiah Sheffer's series of dramatic readings called "Selected Shorts" (broadcast on WBEZ on Sunday nights), "Stories on Stage" features, every month or so, an evening's worth of short stories read (or more precisely, orally interpreted) by local actors like Mahoney, Bruce Norris, and Kate Goehring. The current installment, called Sexual Gothic, is directed by Steve Scott and features three horrific, utterly absorbing erotic tales: Barbara Gowdy's Ninety-three Million Miles Away, Eric McCormack's Birthday Present, and an excerpt from Susan Swan's novel The Wives of Bath. All three of these finely crafted stories manage to be at once scary and sexy, though I have to admit I was most troubled (and fascinated) by Susan Swan's tale. In it, a teenage narrator sketchily describes her friend's various experiments in gender bending, experiments that, as hinted by the narrator, may have culminated in a bit of amateur surgery, the mere thought of which had me wincing. At the Organic Theater Company, 3319 N. Clark, 455-0440. Wednesday, September 22, 7:30 PM. $12.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Bentham.