Survive This! | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Survive This!, Bailiwick Repertory. It's hard to get past the counterintuitive presumption of Survive This! creator Rusty Hernandez. The only knowledge you'd guess he'd expect of his audience based on the title--some acquaintance with TV's Survivor!--isn't actually required, as the show bears only a faint structural resemblance to "America's cultural phenomenon," as it's called in the subtitle. (Host "Jason Provolone" and the "Kuchie" and "Ogakrap" teams do not a parody make.) But Hernandez does assume a comprehensive familiarity with "behind-the-scenes" theater, especially the audition process. Worse, as the show runs in non-self-contained "episodes" through May 21, he's apparently counting on patrons to attend the show five times in a month--a preposterous expectation of anyone but the hardest-core theatergoer.

That said, this stuff would probably kill in installments over the course of a day or week at, say, a theater festival or convention. Nobody can play an actor like an actor, the delineation of pretentious subtypes here is clever and precise, and there's really no weakest link among the seasoned performers--which made voting someone off at the end of the first episode difficult. Furthermore, provided you have the necessary background, the metaphor of audition as life-or-death struggle is thoroughly apt, down to the self-consciously melodramatic overstatement of the comparison. But while I honestly laughed a lot, someone more peripheral to the theatrical universe would likely have been bored: Survive This! lives and dies by its insularity.

--Brian Nemtusak

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