Temptation | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Temptation, BlackJack Productions, at the Performance Loft. Long before he became president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel was deeply concerned with a conscientious approach to politics. A political dissident, he was sentenced to jail time and hard labor twice for crimes against the state. And as a playwright he became increasingly preoccupied with the absurdities of communist rhetoric. His 1985 morality play Temptation represented one of the most effective applications of his political ideology, presaging both the dissolution of communism in the eastern bloc and his own election to office. Not surprisingly, freedom of thought and action is at the core of this reworking of the Faust myth, pitting scientific inquiry against mysticism.

In Nathan Green's ambitious staging, the visual elements are unquestionably stunning. Peter Anderson's lighting design makes exquisite use of shadow, and Christopher R. Dunham's utilitarian scenic design allows the actors to transform the Performance Loft into a variety of locations. Still, Havel takes too long to get to the point, and Green's cast lingers over every word in an effort to extract deep meaning. The pace is so sluggish that the production never really recovers after the intermission; by the end of two and a half grueling hours, Temptation seems less about the banality of evil than about the banality of banality.

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