It's hard work being a Goat Island fan. Not only does the company remain out of the public eye for long stretches, unveiling a new piece about every two years, but its cryptic performances require a lot of patience. Director Lin Hixson has a fondness for quotidian repetition; you can be sure that at some point early in a Goat Island show her four performers will spend a good 15 minutes executing a few exhausting gestures over and over again. But that approach invites a new understanding of time, altering our perception. Since most things take forever with Goat Island, tiny fluctuations in gesture, expression, and tone of voice become monumental. The Sea & Poison--the troupe's sixth full-length piece, which premiered in Chicago last year--combines their trademark physical rigor and emotional nonchalance to extraordinary effect, exploring images of personal and cultural contamination. Something has certainly poisoned these performers and their cold, menacing world, whether spider bites, insecticide, or radiation: legs knot up and arms pound pleadingly against the floor as they do their best to keep from collapsing into spastic piles. Occasional cures are offered--one performer feeds another an enormous glass of milk and nearly drowns him in the process. But purity eludes them. Never has the group orchestrated mania and stillness, chaos and order, so skillfully, and rarely have the emotional contours of their work been so well-defined. If you're not a fan, now's the time to become one. Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, gymnasium, 615 W. Wellington (courtyard entrance), 773-764-2789. Opens Friday, September 29, 7 PM.
Through October 7: Fridays-Saturdays, 7 PM. $12.