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  WINDY CITY TIMES

THEATER Laurel's Love
by MARY SHEN BARNIDGE
2004-01-07

This article shared 3246 times since Wed Jan 7, 2004
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Playwright: Joseph Clair Schmitt

At: Flower In The City Productions at the Athenaeum, 2936 N. Southport Ave.

Phone: (773) 935-6860; $15

Runs through: Jan. 25

The Greeks recognized three types of Love: Eros, the love leading to desire. Filius, the love owed family and, by extension, God(s) and Country. And Agape, the love embracing all the universe. Unconditional Love being considered the province only of mothers and deities, savvy playwrights in our multicultural and increasingly secularized society usually confine their discussion to the more easily illustrated aspects of this powerful emotion. But in this inaugural Flower In The City production, Joseph Clair Schmitt recklessly delves its theological, as well as tribal, definitions. And if the result sometimes verges on Sunday-School art naïf—extensive nudity, notwithstanding—the courage of its ambitions cannot be denied.

We are initially aware of the play's allegorical context by the characters' chiton-like garb and near-contractionless vocabulary. Too, how often do little boys spontaneously cry, 'I love you so much, mother!' and proceed to dance among the meadow flowers with that same parent? Their idyllic trysts are abruptly curtailed by his progenitrix' execution at the hands of hostile villagers, after which the orphaned boy, named Jonathan, is adopted by what seem to be worshippers of Aphrodite. As a grown man, he makes a pilgrimage to the meadow in search of the innocence he associates with that site, there meeting Anna, a young woman living a lonely hermit's existence, crippled by guilt and conflict over her kinspeople's disapproval of her sexual proclivities. Healing is within the lovers' grasp, but only after agonizing penance and grim sacrifice.

Does Schmitt mean to say that the only uncorrupted Love is an unsexed one? Is he criticizing those who say so? Or is his play an argument for vasectomy, couched in mythical terms? The answer remains nebulous, further obscured by the low-budget staging (chiefly, the noisy aluminum rod upon which a curtain is drawn to indicate the play's many scene changes, though Andrew Glasenhardt's incidental music assists mightily in setting mood). And on its opening night, some of the actors appeared still daunted by their text's lofty language and enigmatic ethos.

But considering the plethora of easy-target social satires generated by smartmouth know-it-all slackers these days, Schmitt and company's approach to its topic reflects an endearing—well, innocence.


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