Winners/Losers | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Winners/Losers, ETA Creative Arts Foundation. What drives an otherwise honest man to break the law? That question is explored in this fable of a chauffeur driven by insecurity in a society that discourages his efforts to better himself. His immediate problem is the money he's borrowed to buy his wife a fur coat, even though their bills are going unpaid. As the loan shark swims ever closer, he seems to have no recourse but petty crime.

Kathryn L. Webster's script shows the signs of much workshopping and many hasty rewrites: character details are introduced and abandoned, the mood veers wildly between dark social drama and screwball farce (Harold's harebrained plan to rob a liquor store is patently doomed), and the story's turnaround (much of it occurring via that reliable shortcut, the dream sequence) needs to be more definite if we're to believe the changes that follow.

But director Terry Cullers's expert handling renders the scattershot material plausible; he's assisted by an expert cast led by Donn Carl Harper as the hapless Harold and Cynthia Draper Hill as his smother-mother nemesis (though on the night I attended, the clear audience favorite was Foster Williams Jr. as Grandpa, the menacing moneylender). Though Winners/Losers raises more questions than it answers, its issues are timely, as the division between rich and poor grows ever wider and the measure of both ever more nebulous.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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