Zastrozzi | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Zastrozzi, the Master of Discipline, Symposium Theatre Company, at the Organic Theater Company Greenhouse, South Hall. Loosely based on a gothic novella Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote when he was just 18, George F. Walker's Zastrozzi is an odd and ungainly play, at once cynical and romantic, comic and serious. Scenes of swashbuckling swordplay are followed by sometimes interesting, sometimes dead-on-the-stage discussions of spirituality, the human condition, and the meaning of life. But then, as anyone can tell you who's seen Walker's off-kilter farce Escape From Happiness, odd, ungainly plays--Walker prefers the term "wonky"--are this Canadian writer's meat and potatoes.

The problem is that Walker's forays into eccentricity, or wonkiness, are more interesting to talk about than to see. Even when the work is filled with lots of fascinating characters, as this play is: a charismatic nihilist, a dangerous seductress, a comical weasel of a sidekick. Even when the production is packed with terrific performances the way this one is: Nathan Vogt's marvelous, cool, bored Zastrozzi and Jocelyn Merie Don deVille's red-hot temptress Matilda. And even when the story Walker tells is worthy of a John Ford western: Zastrozzi seeks revenge against his mother's killer. Zastrozzi overstays its welcome. --Jack Helbig

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