Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

The Willing Participant

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Not only is Matt O'Neill's new play smart and funny, it's also the sanest thing I've seen in any medium for a long time. Ray Shepard is a Chicago cop who's just killed somebody in the line of duty. While enduring a departmental investigation, he's also got to deal with a ridiculous dispute over parking spaces at his condo, his affair with the sister of the man he killed, and the bumbling aliens who abduct him every time he turns around. Seems the ETs have a long-term feud simmering on their planet and each side keeps trying to drag Ray into it. O'Neill's script could use another draft to bring out Ray's more serious relationships, but the 80 minutes here are choice. Directed by Steve Walker, this Factory Theater production makes amusing use of blackouts and sci-fi cliches. The aliens are hilarious, then surprisingly disturbing as they begin to subvert Ray's life. Manny Tamayo's Ray has a nice EveryChicagoan hangdog look. But the very best thing about this comic parable is the response it offers to the tendentious fools--so many and varied--who rely on others to fight their trivial battles for them. a Through 3/25: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 7 PM, Prop Thtr, 3502-4 N. Elston, 866-811-4111, $20.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Paul Metreyeon.

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