The Lost Weekend | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Lost Weekend

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THE LOST WEEKEND, WNEP Theater Foundation, at Zebra Crossing Theatre. Given Charles Jackson's depiction of alcoholism in his novel as a failure of nerve that the dogged love of a good woman can repair, WNEP's adaptation could easily have sunk into camp parody. But it works--and very well--because Katie Caussin's ten cast members treat this often eloquent adaptation seriously. A superb 80-minute condensation, it makes each moment matter, and it's only funny when it means to be.

Both a medical melodrama and a rhapsody to decadence in the same vein as Under the Volcano (and better than Leaving Las Vegas), The Lost Weekend conveys the pathos of hitting the skids on the road to nowhere. Don Birnam, a "flop novelist" with an 80-proof writer's block, succumbs to a four-day binge instead of drying out in the country with his all-suffering brother Wick and his loyal girlfriend Helen. Unquietly desperate as he scrounges for hooch through the lower depths, he sells everything but his soul, ending up with the shakes in a detox ward.

Balancing massive self-pity against a chronic fear of failure, Andy Simon's Don is no simple stage drunk--he's a man who needs a bottle to prop up his dreams. As the brother, Don Hall is all raw devotion, while Lori McClain's Helen perfectly imitates the era's grand emoting. Heidi Ammon hits every note right as a good-time girl who gets (ab)used, and Ed Smaron as the bartender who rescues his worst customer cuts through the lies with the wisdom of the guy who's seen it all.

--Lawrence Bommer

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