Titanic | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Titanic, Open Eye Productions, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Christopher Durang's scripts haven't worn well: his sexual shock tactics seem sophomoric, and his rants against rotten parents and erotic repression just so much whining. The setting of his 1974 play--the doomed White Star liner--is moot. Though this 65-minute exercise in absurd anachronism is as frenzied as James Cameron's epic, it lacks the film's melodramatic plot and disastrous ending to excuse its excess (the ship never sinks, only the script).

Durang aims to expose the supposedly appalling underbelly of a seemingly respectable family--incest, pedophilia, homosexuality, illegitimacy, fetishism, nymphomania, sadomasochism, child abuse, transvestism. (What, no drugs?) The result is Joe Orton without the satire. Worse, it's not as fun as it sounds. The joke of a sluttish maiden hiding a seagull in her privates quickly wears thin--you find yourself longing for the iceberg.

This silliness must move along swiftly or it congeals into stupidity, but Christopher Maher's staging is dangerously delayed by awkward set changes and jittery performances. The actors can't be blamed for Durang's manically mannered characters, however, and as the author's surrogate and play's reality principle, Chad Idol suffers many indignities with plucky aplomb. The cast never make fun of their roles, tempting as that must be. If only the obviously angry Durang had given them wicked things to do, not just weird ones.

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