The Cryptogram | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Cryptogram

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David Mamet reportedly took 15 years to finish this excruciating semiautobiographical play, which depicts the relentless, irreversible abandonment of a ten-year-old, John, by his errant father and traumatized mother. In the demanding central role, 14-year-old Jack Donahue delivers a meticulous, stone-faced performance that builds with such measured intensity it becomes almost too painful to watch. The adult actors in this Journeymen production--Shannon O'Neill as John's beleaguered mother and Daniel E. Brennan as her morally bankrupt childhood friend, Del--need the better part of a half hour in the play's tricky first scene to reach Donahue's level of intensity. Once they do, Frank Pullen's focused production packs a debilitating wallop. Through 9/10: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 and 7 PM. Stage Left Theatre, 3408 N. Sheffield, 773-857-5395. $10-$15.

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