The Rock Garden | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Rock Garden, Bar Clay Theatre, at Voltaire. What's a boy to do with parents who bore him, if not to death, then to the point of coma? In Sam Shepard's The Rock Garden, a young man endures servitude to an invalid mother who constantly demands fresh water and blankets (which she then throws on the floor in order to send him after more) and to a self-absorbed stepfather who has plans to landscape the grounds of their new home--with the boy's help, naturally. Finally the dutiful son devises stratagems to foil the old woman's manipulations and stun the old man right out of his chair.

Under the direction of Wilson Alexander Aguilar (who also plays Boy), the cast of this debut production by Bar Clay Theatre navigates Shepard's variation on Samuel Beckett's Endgame with the kind of subtextual concentration that would have made Stanislavsky proud. And certainly the selection of a play that requires its actors to play virtually all the action stripped to their underwear deserves some sort of commendation for sheer valor given the chilliness of the Voltaire basement. But this Rock Garden still resembles a classroom exercise, with the actors more intent on their connections with their own characters than with the audience. Creativity, talent, and training count, of course--but so does the intellectual and spiritual participation of spectators. --Mary Shen Barnidge

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