The Automobile Graveyard | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Automobile Graveyard

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The Automobile Graveyard, Trap Door Theatre. Fernando Arrabal's 1960 play, an absurdist update of the Crucifixion--Jesus is the lead in a garage band--should be dated by now. Its bizarre reversals of role and tone, its casual sex and even more casual cruelty, hark back to the style of earlier days, when Waiting for Godot made tragicomic meaninglessness both an art form and a social comment.

The fact that The Automobile Graveyard stands up to the ravages of time and to comparison with Beckett is a tribute to Trap Door Theatre's flawless production and Michael S. Pieper's direction and set design. This staging highlights every bit of Arabal's insanity, from making Jesus, Judas, and Peter into the Marx Brothers (the silent one speaks via harmonica) to conceiving of the world as a hotel run in abandoned cars by a corrupt, unctuous bell captain (the spectacular Devon Schumacher). At its core is Danny Belrose as Emanou, balancing earnestness with playfulness and even descents into falsity. I'd start a religion around him any day. Beata Pilch (who also gives a terrific vanity-free performance) has worked costuming wonders with a few bolts of red cloth and some spangles, making Nicole Wiesner as Dila look irresistible.

In other hands, the play's deep religiosity might seem quaint. But Trap Door knows not to nudge and wink about the determined search for God--the primary preoccupation, strangely enough, of those infidel existentialists.

--Kelly Kleiman

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