Volume XII | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Volume XII, Plasticene, at the Viaduct Theater. This revival of a 1997 work includes many fine athletic, comic, and intellectual moments--I wish I could recommend it more highly. But though director Dexter Bullard and his players give it everything they've got, it never quite comes together. To the accompaniment of fabulously bizarre music by Eric Leonardson on a device of his own creation, Shirley Anderson, Mark Comiskey, and Sharon Gopfert go through wordless scenes suggesting rivalry between the women, the man's betrayal of each, and love between the women--though that description is way more linear than the experience. A set of encyclopedias constitutes the medium of exchange and communication, and the action includes every conceivable play on the word "book": the actors literally open the books to, close the book on, and throw the book at one another.

But after a while this hour-long piece feels like "1,001 Things to Do With Books": they're unstacked, restacked, lined up and knocked over, torn to pieces, set on fire--and read. The sight of these inarticulate people (the only comprehensible sentence is "No, I can't!") surrounded by words is very touching, but frequent eruptions of what seems to be sexual violence are alarming without communicating much. Movements are also repeated excessively--admittedly an occupational hazard of works without words; it's hard to assure our understanding without boring us.

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