The Ruling Class | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Ruling Class


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British playwright Peter Barnes's pitch-black 1968 comedy, which eerily prefigured the Charles Manson case, concerns a hippie aristocrat, Jack Gurney, who inherits a title and a fortune after his father's untimely demise during a ritual of autoerotic asphyxiation. Problem is, Jack's mad as a hatter: he thinks he's Jesus Christ, and his gospel of universal love threatens the class system he's duty-bound to uphold. It's up to his family to shock him out of his delusion--with gruesome results. A ferocious mix of hilarity and horror, the play boils with religious and sexual satire, loony wordplay, and feverish energy. The BackStage Theatre Company's full-throttle production, directed by Brandon Bruce, features a commanding, highly physical performance by Stephen Dunn in the daunting role of Jack, aided by a confident supporting cast and Heath Hays's inventive sound design. a Through 2/18: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, Storefront Theater, Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, 66 E. Randolph, 312-742-8497, $15-$20.

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