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The Exploded View


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THE EXPLODED VIEW, SmashTheatre, at the Chicago Cultural Center. The title of Erik Ramsey's new drama both makes a grisly allusion to the catastrophe at its center and describes the narrative technique, a cool nonlinear dismantling of the story that functions like assembly instructions in reverse. But the Carver-esque domestic minimalism onstage can't support such a structure for long, and apparently lacking anywhere else to go, the script doubles back on itself too many times. What would've made a sharp one-hour exercise swells to fill a needless second act; in short, Ramsey's View could stand to be imploded.

The play alternates scenes set in a hospital--where Honey and Grace await word on boyfriend and husband, both injured in an unnamed accident--with scenes between the two men. These culminate in the accident itself, and later still there are morning-of exchanges between the members of each couple. These scenes, meant to bring home the "Gift of the Magi" twist at the story's emotional core, instead belabor its wistful ironies. The rest of the tale's small epiphanies are diluted, as Ramsey telegraphs his admirably boiled-down punches, then replays them in solemn slo-mo. Director David Castro makes what he can of the material, and for the most part the cast--especially Amy Rising as Grace--offer respectable work as well.

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