The Passion of Lucy | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Passion of Lucy


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THE PASSION OF LUCY, Wild Life Theatre Company, at Facets Multimedia International Performance Studio. Contemporary feminist writers have passionately and engrossingly revealed the intricate power structures that underlie contemporary cultural institutions. Adrienne Rich's disquisition on motherhood, Susan Griffin's examination of the West's war against nature, and Naomi Wolf's revelations about America's cosmetic culture demonstrate how complicated reality becomes when viewed through a feminist lens.

In her 1991 play The Passion of Lucy, New York playwright Leslie Mohn complicates things deliciously--at least at first. Saint Lucia, the 14th-century visionary, flagellates herself while clerics Ricky, Fred, and Ethel interview her to determine if her visions are divinely or satanically inspired. After a quick tour of female evolution out of the slime pond of primordial earth, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel find themselves in Africa's Olduvai Gorge, conversing with the skeleton of Lucy, the 3.7-million-year-old hominid unearthed by Mary Leakey in the mid-70s. By jumbling so many realities, Mohn not only demonstrates how a male-centered version of history relegates women to the margins but offers an alternative to the strictly linear historicity of academe.

Halfway through the first act, though, Mohn abandons her own best ideas, opting instead to pen an endless I Love Lucy episode in which domineering, patronizing Ricky gets his comeuppance. It's pretty thin stuff, and when a silhouetted figure intones that she is "leaving the stinking swamp of patriarchy," it becomes positively transparent. Despite Wild Life's rich but spare visual design and their ingenious hominid puppet, the production can't rise above the script's too-simple feminism.

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