Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

The Day the Arts Stood Still

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This deft showcase of selections from the Illegitimate Players' wicked parodies is comedy with a conscience. Using their spoofs of Tennessee Williams (The Glass Mendacity), Steinbeck (Of Grapes and Nuts), Dickens (A Christmas Twist), and their recent Wisconsin bit, Cheese Louise, they erect a bulwark from which to defend government funding for the arts. But not to worry--the down-and-dirty attacks on Gingrich and Dole are leavened with laughs more telling than any diatribe. To prove their dire straits as embattled artists, the five players enact composite scenes from supposedly canceled shows (just as they created The Glass Mendacity from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, and A Streetcar Named Desire). Hilarious takeoffs include the Joads' penny-pinching bread buying, Ma Joad's "mean mad" soliloquy, Tom Joad's cliche-clogged valedictory, Laura Wingfield's disease-of-the-year confessional, and Tiny Tim's disgust at his parents' cheerful poverty. Well-targeted new sketches include a rap version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and a harrowing look at the cyber-shrinking of classics to mnemonic devices: a demented trio pungently reduce Melville, Hemingway, and Mamet to catchphrases. If you missed the glory days of the Players' literary satires, which were funny enough to induce apoplexy, this 75-minute show offers a blessed second chance. It also benefits the Illinois Arts Alliance: the Players put their money where their laughs are. At the Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 W. Belmont, 883-1090. Through July 25: Mondays-Tuesdays, 8 PM. $8.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/William Armstrong.

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