The Mysteries & What's So Funny? | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Mysteries & What's So Funny?

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Taking as its jumping-off point the familiar cliche, "It's a mystery to me," this sprawling yet strangely intimate theater/dance/music/art hybrid, written and directed by David Gordon, peeks and probes at the enigmas of the creative process in life and art. Everything from making a painting to making a baby is addressed here; the emphasis is not so much on asking why things work as on celebrating the fact that sometimes they do. This may sound misleadingly heavy, in fact, The Mysteries & What's So Funny is often very funny--but also very moving, as it passes back and forth between past and present, life and death, body and spirit. Blending confessional monologues, story telling, song, choral speaking, dance, and slapstick comedy, this multilayered full-length work alternately recalls Gertrude Stein and A Chorus Line, Paul Sills's Story Theater and a ballet version of Our Town. Its principal characters are Rose and Sam from Brooklyn, whose 50-year marriage is viewed through the prisms of "then" and "now" (sometimes simultaneously), and antiartist Marcel Duchamp, who's played by a woman, Gordon's wife Valda Setterfield. (This is only fair, since Duchamp created for himself a female alter ego named Rrose Selavy.) Adding to the rich texture are Philip Glass's solo piano score, characteristically repetitive and pattern-oriented but unusually reflective and romantic, and artist Red Grooms's whimsical, oddly angled setting, dominated by a huge, comically androgynous Mona Lisa that looks serenely down on the proceedings. This interdisciplinary production had its premiere last year in New York at Lincoln Center's "Serious Fun" festival, and the billing fits: it's very serious, and a lot of fun. At the Theatre School, DePaul University, Blackstone Theatre, 60 E. Balbo, 242-6237. October 23 through 25:

Friday-Sunday, 8 PM. $15-$35.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andrew Eccles.

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