The Woolgatherer | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Woolgatherer

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THE WOOLGATHERER, Kenway Players, at Cafe Voltaire. William Mastrosimone's The Woolgatherer comes from the baking-soda-and-vinegar school of drama: Take two contrasting characters, stick them in a bowl, shake it up, and watch the emotional volcano. Rose is a timid dreamer, so sweet and innocent she makes Tennessee Williams's Laura Wingfield look like Camille Paglia. Into her life strides a bitter, world-weary truck driver, Cliff, who mocks and terrorizes her before inevitably falling for her.

Mastrosimone's drama is play writing at its least subtle. There are some moving and poetic monologues, but his dialogue is pure fantasy. Cliff's street-smart, working-class language, which consists mainly of leaving the Gs off the ends of verbs, is patently phony. The symbol-laden prose of the hemophiliac, hypochondriac Rose comes straight from some male stalker's wet dream. And why are we supposed to feel empathy with a beer-sodden jag who makes jokes designed to expose Rose's ignorance, swears at her, tries to seduce her, slaps her, and then apologizes--all in the name of poetry?

The Kenway Players, a young, talented company under the polished direction of Keith Eric Davis, gives a too-respectful reading of this cliche-ridden script. Karin Shook is as touching and believable as the play allows, but both she and Brian King struggle with some of the more colloquial aspects of their speech. Their approximations of "uneducated" patter seem like impersonation--something Mastrosimone knows quite a bit about.

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