The Collection and Tough Choices for the New Century: A Seminar for Responsible Living | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Collection and Tough Choices for the New Century: A Seminar for Responsible Living

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The Collection and Tough Choices for the New Century: A Seminar for Responsible Living, Wing & Groove Theatre. Few one-acts stand much of a chance against Harold Pinter's steely, nerve-racking The Collection--and on this double bill Jane Anderson's collegiate effort Tough Choices for the New Century is laid to waste. Her mock seminar on disaster preparedness, led by the controlling Bob, his slow-to-boil wife Helen, and the gun-happy Arden, is too tame and predictable to make for meaningful social satire, and the first and second halves have little to do with each other. But Eric Ziegenhagen's meticulous direction and exquisitely understated performances by John Roberts, Molly Mehan, and Kristina Martin make this hour-long piece as funny and thought provoking as possible.

Ziegenhagen doesn't capture Pinter's world as exactly as he does Anderson's, hampered in part by an oddly proportioned multilevel stage that strands actors in awkward corners. But his Collection is clear and compelling. Roommates (and possible lovers) Bill and Harry are thrown into turmoil when the monomaniacal James appears at their door accusing Bill of an affair with his wife. What ensues is a harrowing but pedestrian showdown among decidedly nonheroic figures. Although only Tom Siddoway as Harry makes us believe that this might be a life-and-death struggle, the others give Pinter's cryptic text enough nuance to make for occasional white knuckles.

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