The Pool of Bethesda | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Pool of Bethesda

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THE POOL OF BETHESDA, Umalleniay Productions, at Live Bait Theater. British doctor Daniel Pearce is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and learns not only that his wife is having an affair but that she knows about his affair with a colleague. But none of these revelations arises until the second act of Allan Cubitt's play because the first act is taken up by an elaborate fantasy sequence in which Pearce imagines himself to be an 18th-century physician posing as Christ for William Hogarth's massive painting The Pool of Bethesda. This hour-long delusion has no bearing on the rest of the action, and Cubitt is left to shoehorn life-changing experiences into a single act. Not surprisingly, the result is schematic and cliched.

Designer Brian Sidney Bembridge has worked a small miracle rebuilding Live Bait's tiny studio theater. Lining the space with plain wooden benches and sinking a handsome pool into the center of the stage, he creates a hybrid sauna/surgical arena--an apt environment given the play's interest in healing. Director Mikhael Tara Garver has some trouble creating cogent stage pictures with eight people in a small space skirting this large, watery obstacle, but she's assembled enough strong actors to give some depth to a 2-D script.

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