Tales of the Lost Formicans | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Tales of the Lost Formicans


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Tales of the Lost Formicans, StreetSigns, at Strawdog Theatre. Even if Lifeline did produce this play only five years ago, it's worth a revival as rich as Derek Goldman's staging. Constance Congdon's dark comedy depicts a Colorado subdivision as seen by three merrily manipulative aliens. An amalgam of Coneheads and Swift's Laputans, they encounter scenes from a world far stranger than they are: Congdon's bitterly observed suburban desert of pseudo families ravaged by rootlessness, rebellion, paranoia, masochism, unrequited passion, Alzheimer's, and random violence. Yet for all the misery of Congdon's bleak survivors, their efforts "to try to be alive" seem far nobler than the gibbering incomprehension of the bemused extraterrestrials; like Tony Kushner's ineffectual angels, they view people--the "lost Formicans"--as mere behavioral constructs. It's up to us fellow Formicans to see the pain within these hearts of darkness; Congdon retrieves our humanity in the process of eliminating the aliens.

Goldman's perfect-pitch staging depicts what's left of our humanity with unerring compassion. Simple and stunning in her unforced decency is Jenny McKnight, magnificent as a woman who's trying not to stop feeling despite a father sinking into senility (Steven Fedoruk as a living ghost), a runaway son (depicted by Rich Hutchman as if he'd invented adolescence), and a mother who needs a mother (a wonderfully hapless Karen McLaughlin). Fantastic case histories come from two neighbors, Lisa Rothschiller as a much-beset mother and George Brant as a frazzled conspiracy nut who learns that everything the supermarket rags say about alien abductions is true.

--Lawrence Bommer

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