The Nose | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Last season director Julieanne Ehre transformed Ibsen's messy The Lady From the Sea into tidy theater. Now she's adapted Nikolay Gogol's tidy short story "The Nose" into a tortured mess. This 1836 tale of a self-important civil servant humiliated when his nose disappears, then reappears as a high-ranking official, is a masterpiece of narrative efficiency and droll satire: Gogol's literary poker face is unrivaled. But Ehre's five cast members labor over every line, telegraphing the humor, obscuring the narrative, and turning Gogol's laser-accurate caricatures into overblown distortions. Instead of establishing a familiar workaday world laced with sudden absurdities--the source of Gogol's satire--this production creates a bizarre demonic environment so distant from reality that the story's ingeniously crafted oddities seem random quirks. And by tossing in personal asides and fragments of other Gogol stories, Greasy Joan & Company manage to stretch a 24-page tale into two long hours. Through 5/29: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM. Athenaeum Theatre, second-floor studio theater, 2936 N. Southport, 312-902-1500. $15-$20; $40 Sat 4/30 (includes postshow reception); industry nights Thu.

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