The Third Degrees of J.O. Breeze | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Third Degrees of J.O. Breeze


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Beau O'Reilly's newest play, The Third Degrees of J.0. Breeze, doesn't contain a single stage direction. "It's the kind of play that forces an actor to make bold choices to support the dialogue," explains cast member Paul Tamney, who plays the barracudalike title character. "Otherwise, things don't click." Tamney's work has always been characterized by boldness-and clicking-and he's never been stronger than he is in O'Reilly's absurdist sci-fi drama. J.0. and his repugnant assistant the Captain, who work for an unidentified "crackpot," are interviewing candidates for a position that somehow holds the key to mankind's salvation. Each of its one-hour acts is a continuous interrogation, Tamney unleashing every weapon in his vast arsenal of psychological terrorism. Three of the cast members--Tamney, O'Reilly, and Marianne Fieber--opened the play during last summer's Rhinoceros Theatre Festival, then ran it at Angel Island in the fall for seven weeks. Their familiarity with the piece brings out every nuance of its intricate cat-and-mouse game. Newcomer Colm O'Reilly had only five rehearsals before opening night (only two onstage), but his performance is a sublime example of life and art intertwining: his character, Horace, is a chump tossed headfirst into an impossible situation--J.O. throws nothing but curveballs for an hour, and Horace gets beaned every time. Whether it's Colm or Horace who hasn't learned to duck is beside the point. The comic brilliance is the kind that comes only from living through a true ordeal. Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln, 327-6666. Saturday, February 24, 8 PM, Monday, February 26, 8 PM. $7. -Justin Hayford

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