The Hall of Mirrors | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Hall of Mirrors

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Retro Theatre, at Zebra Crossing Theatre.

Two sweet, loving couples. Both meet in bars, both soon commit to twinkly-eyed long-term relationships. But one couple's straight, the other's lesbian. Surprising? Not especially--at least not as scripted by Sara Reily, who makes both couples as bland and conventional as possible. In a word, dull.

In The Hall of Mirrors Reily demonstrates the parallels between her two couples in the first act, then throws them together in the second. The oh-so-normal lesbians are Anna, a mousy, self-conscious divorcee, and Maggie, a self-assured romance novelist. Weighing in on the hetero side are Maggie's brother David, a nondescript businessdude, and Elaine, a warm but conservative child-care worker. The plodding first act serves largely as exposition for the second act's dinner party, in which the two couples meet and Elaine's virulent homophobia forces David to choose between her and his sister.

The couples' interactions generate a mildly engrossing tension, but the verbal exchanges are so ordinary and the conflicts so blatantly spelled out that whenever Reily's script threatens to get interesting it turns implausible. Even at 70 minutes the play feels drawn out, a sensation caused by the superfluous 15-minute intermission, excessive pauses between lines, and enough R.E.M. and 10,000 Maniacs tunes between scenes to make Q101 listeners ecstatic. Yet the play ends suddenly and inconclusively--less evidence of a thoughtful ambivalence than of the failure to flesh out the script. Despite Retro Theatre's clean, serviceable production, directed by Steve Reily, The Hall of Mirrors still seems to be several rewrites away from anything meaningful or realistic.

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