The Job | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Job, Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company. From Blade Runner to Angel Heart to Barton Fink, retro noir has proved a durable vehicle for allegorical drama. The Job is a straightforward effort from playwright and sometime screenwriter Shem Bitterman that never quite literalizes its religious overtones but sports a devil figure, a shadow-self rival, an angelically redemptive dame, etc. Leaving things metaphoric is a gutsy move on Bitterman's part, and this no-frills production serves it well; still, some of the plot points are so implausible that they cry out for a resounding explanation or resolution, which never materializes. Despite some arrestingly direct acting and a reasonable number of black laughs, we find we've suspended our disbelief for nothing.

Given the script's deficiencies, director Richard Cotovsky has done bang-up work, striking a snappy pace with stylized blackouts and coaxing honest, immediate performances from his actors that belie the characters' often dubious motivations. He's also a standout onstage as laconically menacing provocateur John. Hillary Lynn Goldsher somehow makes the atrociously thin part of long-suffering Mags live and breathe, a small miracle of actorly focus. Aaron Boucher as a small-time crook and priest impersonator navigates the hardest-to-swallow parts of the story with remarkable poise, Danny Ahlfeld likewise sells his character's suicidal despair as though it were more than a strategic device, and as checkered-past, goin'-straight protagonist Frank, the talented Andy Hager strives mightily--but many of the abrupt center-stage transformations asked of him are simply impossible.

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