Unmerciful Good Fortune | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Performing Arts Review

Unmerciful Good Fortune


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Unmerciful Good Fortune, Northlight Theatre and Victory Gardens Theater. This coproduction is an uneven tragedy posing as a story of redemption. The play weaves together the lives of two women, a young lawyer and her client, as they fall in love. But their passion is not the main focus; playwright Edwin Sanchez has mixed into the tale euthanasia, racism, sexual abuse, serial killing, psychic power, and other opportunities to grieve and shudder.

Each character's driving force is loneliness and self-hatred, which the lawyer and her client, the imprisoned seer-murderess Fatima, share during their increasingly intimate moments. Although Sanchez ostensibly offers a hope of healing through love, acceptance, and, when all else fails, euthanasia, it's undermined by the play's literary blandness and by abrupt transformations that signal an almost masturbatory despair. With formulaic regularity each character has a breakdown, tells his or her secret, and wanders off, bruised and sometimes hopeful, to try to resolve a continuing crisis.

Director Susana Tubert, who staged the play's workshop production at Seattle Repertory Theatre, has emphasized Sanchez's overdescriptive prose and the characters' isolation and inner turmoil. Perhaps she had no choice, given the playwright's preoccupation with melodramatic confrontation. And yet if Tubert and Sanchez had been able to focus on the power of interconnection and love, they might have been able to settle the ache that bloats the playwright's characters and language. Some moments show that Sanchez understands the power of this gentle, highly theatrical healing strength, but there are too few to lift this drama out of its self-conscious lassitude.

--Carol Burbank

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Give $35/month →  
  Give $10/month →  
  Give  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment