Time of the Cuckoo | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Time of the Cuckoo

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Time of the Cuckoo, Shattered Globe Theatre, at Victory Gardens Theater. In his memoir Original Story By, gay playwright Arthur Laurents confesses that the female central character in his 1952 drama Time of the Cuckoo "is based on...what was going on inside me" during a trip to Venice, where sex "hangs in the air." Feisty, lonely Leona visits Italy in search of love and 18th-century glass. She thinks she finds both; but the goblet is fake, and the romance is a fling with a married scoundrel. Before heading back to his fat, neglected wife--presumably to lie in wait for the next sight-seeing sucker--he declares that Leona's romantic illusions and grasping materialism have soured their affair.

Laurents may have intended critical self-examination, but the play comes across as misogynistic: the female characters all live to please or ensnare men. A Broadway success 50 years ago with Shirley Booth, the play today seems mean-spirited and irrelevant, lacking the poetry and compassion of works from the same era by Tennessee Williams and William Inge.

Director Nick Bowling's earnest but unsexy revival boasts a lovely picture-postcard set (by Kevin Hagan) and period-perfect costumes (by Karen Kawa). But Eileen Niccolai and Brian Pudil as Leona and her cut-rate Casanova offer only competence instead of charisma and chemistry. The supporting cast fares better--especially Linda Reiter as a fiery pension operator who both despises and identifies with Leona's illusions.

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