Whisper Into My Good Ear | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Whisper Into My Good Ear

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Shattered Globe Theatre.

From the first moment of William Hanley's one-act, when two old men meet on a park bench, you settle in, thinking you know this scene. The men are shabby, they speak of wives long gone and children who don't seem to care, they wrap their arms around their own chilled bones as they wistfully watch a young couple embracing in the distance. One man is loud, opinionated, and nearly blind. The other is laconic, thoughtful, lonely. It's predictable, but not unpleasant.

Then Max, the quiet gentleman, announces with unexpected venom that he hates the tree they sit beneath because it will continue long after he is gone. The bitter side of old age creeps in, and a gun appears. Max and Charley's purpose becomes clear: they've met here to end the loneliness, the indignity, and the pain neither can escape.

This production, directed with simple grace by Doug McDade, boasts two fine performances by Rich Baker and Shelton Key, who temper Max and Charley's offhanded banter with just the right amount of nervous tension. Yet they never wallow in their secret agonies when those are revealed. In the world of non-Equity theater it's a joy to see two excellent older actors tear into some juicy roles, instead of watching good younger actors struggle along with lines painted on their foreheads.

Whisper Into My Good Ear ends on a strange, anticlimactic note, a problem McDade and his actors have not overcome. But the performances overall are so full of life that the imminent double suicide is nearly unthinkable--it's impossible not to root for these two men to continue.

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