The Speaking Head and Other Scary Jewish Stories, Chicago Jewish Theatre, at Red Hen Productions. Few experiences are as mesmerizing as listening to well-told, well-worn stories. The six Jewish folk tales about the supernatural on this program, adapted by Stuart Gordon from a book by Howard Schwartz, have been collected from Hebrew sources ranging from the ancient Middle East to 12th-century Germany.
The stories are told in the third person by a cast of eight, with each performer narrating whenever the tale concerns his or her character. A drunken bridegroom inadvertently marries a corpse; a father unwittingly sends his son off to live with a demon; and a sorcerer ravishes the queen of France, known as the most beautiful woman in the world.
As directed by Susan Stone, these slightly creepy morality tales warn of the perils of greed while extolling faith, community, and individual resourcefulness--and because they're far less familiar than those told by the brothers Grimm, they have a greater emotional impact. Michele DiMaso is particularly funny as the corpse who wants to be a bride, and Michael Rubin plays his roles with an intensity that makes them especially scary.