Wishes, Suspicions and Secret Ambitions: The Stories of Carl Sandburg | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Wishes, Suspicions and Secret Ambitions: The Stories of Carl Sandburg

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Wishes, Suspicions and Secret Ambitions: The Stories of Carl Sandburg, Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Carl Sandburg had a long and interesting life, and his literary output was likewise extensive and varied. Dramatizing his progress from poor immigrant farm boy to internationally recognized poet and journalist could take up a whole series of plays the length of Wishes, Suspicions and Secret Ambitions, Ann Boyd's collage of prose, poetry, music, dance, and photographic projections.

Boyd's treatment in this Steppenwolf Arts Exchange production encompasses no less than three levels of narration. The first is Sandburg himself, recounting his adventures after he left his home in Galesburg, Illinois, to ride the rails, write, and toil at a variety of jobs before settling in Chicago. The second is a storyteller persona Sandburg created, the Potato Face Blind Man, whose fables of the fantastical Rootabaga Country are steeped in homely wisdom. The third consists of the fables themselves, adapted for the stage. Further seasoning between courses is provided by excerpts from Sandburg's poems.

So rich a meal is a lot to digest in a mere 75 minutes. But if the swift transitions are sometimes inadequate for us to reorient ourselves, there's no denying the imagination and expertise of the eight-member cast, featuring Cedric Young as the genial Potato Face Blind Man and the protean Aaron Christensen as Sandburg.

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