WINDY CITY TIMES
||Theater: Wedding Play
by Mary Shen Barnidge
This article shared 3775 times since Wed Nov 14, 2007
Playwright: Eric Rosen, adapted from the novel by Naguib Mahfouz. At: About Face Theatre at the Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted. Phone: 312-335-1650; $20-$35. Runs through: Dec. 2
Peeling the onion: the outer layer is a 1981 novel by Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz, entitled Wedding Song, about a theater company putting on a noiresque melodrama set in 1938 Cairo. The second layer is Wedding Play, Chicago playwright-director Eric Rosen's adaptation of the aforementioned novel, presented as a Rashoman-styled existential puzzle incorporating several versions of events recounted by witnesses, all of whom have palpable reasons to lie. And at the center is the theater company rehearsing the story of an African husband driven to kill his unfaithful European wife and the child sired by her callous lover, as adapted by Adam Mace, a young playwright with a reputation for basing his plays on his own experiences.
Unwary playgoers experiencing vertigo in the course of attempting to follow the action as it leaps from one level of consciousness to the other and back again should not be surprised: the episodes are performed in non-chronological order, for one, and the same actors who play the characters in Rosen's drama also play the actors playing the characters in Mace's thriller based on—you get the idea. After this house-of-mirrors mode of narration has reduced us to walleyed giddiness, we are then asked to decide whose account of the murder-suicide that has occurred—or has it?—is to be believed. Oh, the culprit who dunit—maybe—gets the last word, citing proof of his veracity. And the characters drop us several hints suggesting their stratagem, the better to mock us for being taken in by the narrative sleight of hand, nonetheless.
This brand of existential legerdemain could easily render actors—the actors in Rosen's play, that is—as dizzy as the audience. Fortunately, the cast assembled by Rosen in his capacity as director exhibits the traction of rock-climbers, retaining their knife-edged precision throughout the multiple repetitions of identical—on the surface, anyway—scenes mandated by Mahfouz/Rosen's text and fearlessly charging over the fourth wall to blur the distinction between the spectators in the Steppenwolf Garage and those in the play-within-the-play. And they do it all with such high-artifice aplomb that it's a pleasure to watch them even as we founder in the midst of our confusion.
Whether press coverage of this About Face production will ultimately reveal its secrets ( don't expect me to do it ) , curious theatergoers are warned not to heed the synopsis in the publicity releases. The play itself will explain why.
This article shared 3775 times since Wed Nov 14, 2007
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