The Gift Horse | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Gift Horse


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The Gift Horse, Goodman Theatre. Lydia Diamond's new play essentially moves Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles out of the world of privileged Jews and into the world of privileged African-Americans. There's the same arty protagonist, gay best friend affected by AIDS, and ultimate solution to all problems: a baby. Diamond shares other characteristics of Wasserstein's too: crackling dialogue that occasionally turns glib, male characters more like women's fantasies of men than the real article, and a clumsy way with revelations. And since The Gift Horse includes revelation on a scale Wasserstein has never attempted, this last flaw looms large.

Yet the play is worth seeing. It has genuine humor and respects both characters and audience. Its experiment with form--putting a music-playing dream figure beside the realistic action and giving her realistic problems of her own--is innovative and successful. Most important, Chuck Smith has given it a perfect production: fluid, nuanced, making the most of its strengths. All six cast members acquit themselves well, a sure sign of good direction. Lynn M. House is fine as the protagonist, Ruth, around whom everything and everyone revolves--an awkward position House manages with grace. Andrew Navarro as the gay best friend and Tim Edward Rhoze as the husband do well; but Yvonne Huff as the mysterious cello-playing Jordan walks away with the show. Comic and thoughtful, her performance alone is worth the price of admission.

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