The Killer Angels | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Killer Angels


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THE KILLER ANGELS, Lifeline Theatre. Karen Tarjan's faithful adaptation of Michael Shaara's Pulitzer-winning novel is as dull as the book despite some strong performances, particularly from Brian Amidei as tortured Confederate general James Longstreet. In this version of the battle of Gettysburg, there's a lot of standing around asking, "Where's the enemy? Is that the enemy? Should we engage the enemy?" Most interesting are snippets of conversation that reveal the widely varying motives of those who fought, as idealistic recruits mix uneasily with professional soldiers. But it would take someone with Robert Altman's gifts to tease a narrative out of this set of anecdotes while conveying the randomness and terror of war. Director Ned Mochel seems stumped even by the basics: a map used to illustrate the battle's progress is more confusing than helpful, so if you don't already know how things unfolded at Gettysburg you're in trouble.

Lifeline's usually effective techniques for adaptations are undermined by the weak source. Though in earlier seasons its tiny stage has managed to encompass all of Middle Earth, it's too small to stand in for the Pennsylvania countryside: the actors spend all evening gazing out over our heads as if the action were behind us. The use of period music is effective, however, and sound designer and musical director Adam Kozlowski makes a fine troubadour.

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