WordPlay(s) | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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WORDPLAY(S), Theo Ubique Theatre Company, at Heartland Studio Theater. This program of two new works illustrates how seductive words in themselves can be. In Melanie Tem's The Society for Lost Positives, a former student pays her retired English teacher a surprise visit. As it turns out, a lost positive is a word (most often encountered in English with a negative prefix) in which the root meaning has passed into obscurity. Consider the expression "nonplussed"--what does "plussed" mean? The student says her teacher has always been obsessed with finding lost positives, but the purpose of her visit is to remind him that there are more important things in life.

Nevertheless Tem relies on our being similarly distracted by the two characters' search for such words: it's a way for her to keep these incompatible personalities in proximity until they bond. Performers Dean Peerman and Jan Sodaro play a championship match, but in the end it's the characters' competition--not their humanity--that we remember.

Completing "WordPlay(s)" is Gertrude Stein Cubed, Beverle Bloch's toccata-and-fugue adaptation, described in a program note as "verbatim extracts" from two Stein works. Three performers--Anne Adams, Ashleigh Beyer, and Roxanne Saylor--represent this complex artist with charming physical and verbal agility. Indeed, Saylor assures us with such conviction that we comprehend her discourse that, even when we don't, we feel as if we do.

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