Highly acclaimed in its summer run at Apple Tree Theatre, this superb production launches the 1995-'96 season with a bang. David Darlow etches an unforgettable portrait in Kenneth Hoyle, a man wrecked by success in Jon Robin Baitz's play. Hoyle, who changed his Russian Jewish name to a WASPish one, is a master of euphemism: vice president of an American baby-food manufacturer in charge of "developing nations," he peddles formula to African mothers as a substitute for breast milk, fires unproductive managers, and defends his company's bottom-line policies at international health conferences. To gain the third world he's sold his soul--and mortgaged his marriage: his wife, Barbara, understands all too well the soul-rotting bargain he's made. Though Baitz's poetic metaphors and political preachments are a little too pat--for example, his comparisons between dead African babies, Mexico's Day of the Dead, and the Hoyles' own murdered son--there's no quarreling with the theme of moral responsibility. Or with Darlow's performance, which combines vivid storytelling with minutely detailed emotional development as Hoyle relives in two monologues the experiences that shaped him into a withered hypocrite. Darlow's real-life wife Kristine Thatcher plays Barbara, a smaller part; she's solid and affecting but a little too earnest (and young) to make us feel the cost of her own compromises. But Darlow's naturally dry stage persona and shrewd emotional insights are not to be missed. Ivanhoe Theater, 750 W. Wellington, 975-7171. Through November 18: Wednesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 PM; Fridays, 8 PM; Saturdays, 6 and 9 PM; Sundays, 3 PM; additional matinee Wednesday, October 25 through November 15, 2 PM. $24-$32.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mitchell Canoff.