The Life and Death of Madam Barker | Red Tape Theatre | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader

The Life and Death of Madam Barker The Short List (Theater) Closing (Theater and Galleries)

When: Mondays, Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Nov. 10 2013

At the rear of Emily Guthrie's playfully tawdry set—Romper Room meets Rocky Horror—teeters a precarious pile of debris, expressing the danger and edginess otherwise lacking in this toothless "steampunk burlesque." Madam Barker, a besotted, impish egomaniac, leads a troupe of cross-dressing acolytes through her own fanciful life story: her immaculate conception, her adolescence as visionary saint, her stint as the captain of a whaler, etc. Molly Brennan, Chicago's scariest clown, created Barker four years ago with the troupe 500 Clown, but now playwright Brooke Allen declaws her in an alternately dutiful, aimless, and saccharine script. Director Eric Hoff skillfully corrals a game 17-person cast, and John Fournier's gritty songs are, despite their tenuous relation to the play at hand, small marvels. —Justin Hayford

Price: $25