The Coral | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Coral, TinFish Theatre. This 1917 fable by German expressionist playwright Georg Kaiser might be read as a simple anticapitalist diatribe. But its pessimism forestalls any practical economic or social solutions--instead Kaiser advocates "self-realization," a course of action even more egotistical than accumulating wealth. Here a self-made billionaire renowned for his philanthropy employs a double whenever he's required to confront the poverty he's toiled to escape. But after his son and daughter renounce their privileged lives in a burst of populist fervor, he murders his doppelganger and assumes the man's humble status. Eventually executed for his crime, he dies happy, free at last from his fear and isolation.

The Coral is the first in a trilogy, which might explain its feeling of incompleteness. More puzzling is director Dragan Torbica's approach to the script. The quasi-humanitarian Son and Daughter, as played by Jeff Willgale and Taryn Hettlinger, come off as self-righteous brats. Playing a pair of befuddled judges, Kate Harris and Dan Zielinski struggle with the stiffly translated text, as do Nate White as an activist turned greedhead and Dejan Avramovich as the cheerful Secretary. Except for the opportunity the play provides Jon Frazier--who manages to give the Billionaire depth, compassion, and equanimity despite the surrounding caricatures--there seems little purpose in staging what seems nowadays no more than an intellectually elitist harangue.

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