The Love of a Good Man | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Love of a Good Man


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THE LOVE OF A GOOD MAN, Shattered Globe Theatre. I've seen walk-in closets with more space than Shattered Globe has. Yet the company consistently turns this drawback into an asset, sacrificing sweeping sets for claustrophobic intimacy in stagings that quickly boil large issues down to the personal. Their current production is no exception. Howard Barker's dark comedy The Love of a Good Man is set at the end of World War I at the gruesome site of the Battle of Passchendaele, part of the third battle of Ypres where the British, bogged down in the mud, suffered 400,000 casualties.

Susan Pope's set resembles a large heap of unwashed linen snagged by blasted trees and rounded by grave markers. Directors Nancy Scanlon and John Swanbeck pilot their excellent 12-member ensemble gracefully through the graveyard antics as a British dowager employs her hard-edged femininity to charm an undertaker into searching among the bodies for her lost son. Meanwhile her socialist daughter and a nihilist soldier rendezvous among the muck and the bodies, and a group of soldiers turned grave diggers happily reenlist, callously trading the muck of Passchendaele for the bogs of Ireland while still knee-deep in cadavers. The play opens with the Prince of Wales surveying the carnage and thinking of nothing more inspiring to say than, "Sorry."

There isn't a weak link in this ensemble; all the performances are spot on, whether that means spitting Barker's elegant vulgarities or contemplating the overwhelming loneliness of the mass grave site. This kind of precise, comic passion is all too rare.

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