Playwright: William Inge
At: Shattered Globe Theatre at Victory Gardens, 2257 N. Lincoln
Phone: 773-871-3000; $20-$35
Runs through: Oct. 21
BY MARY SHEN BARNIDGE
Before the advent of Dr. Phil and TV movies, the theatre provided the forum for drawing popular attention to contemporary social problems—war-connected drug addiction in A Hatful Of Rain, for example, or juvenile crime in Dead End. Most of these early investigations strike us nowadays as naive and propagandistic, making the first decision of any theatre company proposing to stage a drama in this genre whether to modify, spoof or honor its often outdated sensibilities.
David Cromer's artistic intuition is rarely incorrect, and he has wisely opted for the third choice. For William Inge's 1950 portrait of a marriage troubled by long-festering resentments and the means by which unhappy spouses conceal their malaise—notably, alcoholism—is astonishingly accurate, even in 2006. And the members of Shattered Globe Theatre have more than once demonstrated their capacity for immersing themselves in cultural milieux considerably distanced from our modern prejudices.
And so Kevin Hagan's museum-accurate scenic design immediately invokes a time when households boasted only one telephone, and home entertainment centered, not on television, but the radio ( and—as Jeffrey Robert Dublinske's sound design reminds us—Martin Denny was as ethnically exotic as the music got ) . John Judd and Linda Reiter conjure moving portrayals of a middle-aged husband and wife chafing under disillusionment and denial, despite having played these same characters in numerous other productions. Jayce Ryan, Maggie Corbett and Ryan Martin likewise deliver irony-free portraits of wholesome American youths. And special kudos are due Karl Potthoff and Michael Falevits, whose characterizations for an Alcoholics Anonymous intervention team deftly evade spilling into melodrama.
In an age riddled with unrest and controversy ( as what age is not? ) , it's easy to think ourselves unique. When was there ever a shortage of playwrights imposing their own restricted experiences on defenseless history? The discovery that our woes spring from conditions beyond our awareness of their existence should come as both shock and comfort to citizens inclined to smugly declare themselves superior to those of generations past.