The Broken Museum | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Broken Museum



THE BROKEN MUSEUM, Mary-Arrchie Theatre. Despite its intriguing title, Christopher Ellis's one-act remains a self-indulgent pseudo-psychological puzzle. The ambiguous plot allows several interpretations of a hypersexual yet unerotic narrative, but the main thrust of every interpretation seems to be a pederastic dominance fetish gone rancid.

The play apparently chronicles the life of an unhappily married couple whose erotic game is to repeat an S-M scene between the artist-who-never-paints husband and his male lover, a street hooker/model-who-never-poses. The scene ends with a pantomimed murder of the artist, then it begins again, like a blandly disturbing dream cobbled together out of fragments of TV shows and soft-porn movies. But it could also be the story of a mentally unbalanced woman obsessed with her husband's murder, played onstage as it recycles endlessly through her mind. Or it could be a play exploring some indecipherable aspect of Art, as seen through ritualistic sex and casual violence.

Whatever narrative Ellis intended to convey, The Broken Museum merely limps forward, the grimly earnest actors posturing their way toward the murderous "climax." Are we supposed to be shocked? Titillated? Saddened? In the lingering pompous haze of encoded dialogue, it's hard to know or care. --Carol Burbank

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