WINDY CITY TIMES
||THEATER REVIEW Chicago's Role in the Crime of the Century
by Mary Shen Barnidge
This article shared 2464 times since Wed Aug 26, 2015
Playwright: Hillel Levin. At: The Museum of Broadcast Communications, 360 N. State St. Tickets: 800-838-3006; www.assassinationtheater.com; $49. Runs through: Nov. 7
Even with the current fashion for talking-heads symposiums posing as docudramas ( but leaving out the drama ), Hillel Levin's decision to present his journalist's investigation of the role played by organized crime in the 1963 assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy as a playrather than as a book, film, graphic novel or television miniseriesis a curious one. At one time, when literacy was less widespread in the general population, disseminating news through live performance may have been necessary, but why choose this old-school medium in 2015?
It's not as if Levin's paper chase offers additional opportunities for physical action ( forensic-based Hollywood whodunits like NCIS to the contrary ). Anthony Churchill's scenic design converts a gallery in the Museum of Broadcast Communications into a classroom-y lecture hall with a projection screen replacing the traditional chalkboard. Occupying this forum are characters representing Levin and former FBI agent Zachariah Shelton, who proceed to recount their tale of our government's attempt to preserve peaceful cold-war relations with the USSR at the expense of lying to the U.S. public. Assisting these two in their expository duties is a carefully researched collection of vintage collaborative material, along with a pair of actors portraying the real-life personnel involved. ( For playgoers anticipating a quiz afterward, the playbill also includes diagramslabeled "Overworld" and "Underworld"illustrating the connections between the key historical figures ).
Fortunately, the production budget provided by Russell Lane LLC permits the hiring of top-flight theater professionals. Director Kevin Christopher Fox strives mightily to introduce kinetic elements to the script's lengthy recitations of dry factsbringing the co-narrators down into the audience's space, Federal Theatre-style, for exampleand Christopher Kriz contributes some plucked-strings quasi-"Radio Mystery Theater" incidental music, while Michael Joseph Mitchell and Mark Ulrich employ their extensive oral-interpretation skills to lend variety to Levin's agenda. Ryan Kitley and Martin Yurek have the arguably easier assignment of replicatingwith newsreel-accurate vocal impressionsassorted bureaucrats, medical examiners, witnesses and criminals sporting a dizzying array of languages, dialects and body stances.
A chronic hazard of prose writers-turned-playwrights is a tendency to lose track of running time; as Shelton reminds his colleague during the protracted second act, he can always write another play. In the meantime, whatever your opinions regarding the events of that fatal Dallas day, if you enjoy true-crime "reality" shows like 48 Hours or spy-fiction in the David Baldacci/Daniel Silva mode, feel free to revel in the atmosphere of conspiratorial unity generated by Levin's provocative thesis.
This article shared 2464 times since Wed Aug 26, 2015
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