Wings | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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WINGS, Wild Iris Performance Group, at Footsteps Theatre Company. Thank God Arthur Kopit wrote Wings, breaking the news to American theatergoers that stroke victims have a hard time with language and are often frustrated and confused as a result. Well, duh. Kopit's 1978 play dramatizes the struggle of seventysomething Emily Stilson's "inner self" as she deals with a massive stroke and debilitating aphasia. Despite nearly crippling paranoia and gaping conceptual deficits, Stilson maintains a plucky sense of adventure that pulls her through; in her youth she was, of all things, an aviatrix and wing walker. And if you can't envision the flying metaphors, you're not trying very hard.

Julieanne Ehre, directing Wild Iris's inaugural production, shows a keen visual sense. Although the play takes place in an empty room with a single chair for a "set," her stage images have an austere, mesmerizing beauty. She can't generate much urgency, however, in part because much of the time Kopit seems content to orchestrate confusion, and in part because Kathleen Powers as Stilson needs another 40 years before she can understand the enormity of her character's loss. Despite the gravity of the situation depicted, this production never transcends its well-crafted surface to deliver an emotional punch.

--Justin Hayford

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