WINDY CITY TIMES
||pool (no water)
by Mary Shen Barnidge
This article shared 2311 times since Wed Sep 12, 2012
Playwright: Mark Ravenhill. At: Vitalist Theatre at the Greenhouse, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: 773-404-7336; www.greenhousetheater.org; $25. Runs through: Sept. 30
Unlike most people (who perceive the world around them as something to be consumedmentally, if not corporally), artists view their surroundings as raw material waiting to be recorded, explained, delved, enhanced or, in some way, crafted into an idealized form offering a sense of control over a chaotic universe. Art, in short, constitutes the artist's protest against the disorderliness of life, re-fashioning it into a comforting facsimile of reality.
This is the ethical crisis the four struggling artists in Mark Ravenhill's gritty-edged morality play actually confront. It starts innocently enough: A former peer from the neighborhood invites them to a house party at the luxury estate purchased from the profits of her art-trouvé collages incorporating relics of fallen comrades. During the course of a midnight skinny-dip, the hostess swan-dives into the recently drained swimming pool. Her friends are distraught, but as they view their comatose companion in the hospital, the desire to create something from the disastera defensive measure born of shock and genuine grief, but gradually distorted by unspoken envyleads them to impose their corrective visions on her inert body in increasingly grotesque ways.
The monologue that Ravenhill wrote could be performed in under 40 minutesdivided among several voices, maybe an hour. Vitalist Theatre is all about multi-disciplinary spectacle, however, and so not only do all four characters narrate the events (with the shamefaced candor of children determined to "own up"), but their recollections are bridged with wordless episodes of manic music and frenzied acrobatics (which director Liz Carlin Metz dubbs "contact improvisation"). These work best when reflecting the inner turmoil of sensitive youths suffering jealousy of their broken comrade clashing with guilt over the petty reprisals engendered thereby. At other times, the kinetic interludes reveal themselves as little more than studio exerciseseven a brief 82-minute running time can feel protracted when EVERYBODY has to have their turn in the solo spotlight.
Ravenhill's characteristic humans-are-slimeballs aesthetic differs from his previous diatribes in that he acknowledges his pilgrims' confusion (Are they preserving, or exploiting, their friend's final days, and where is the line drawn?) to reward them with a moment of cleansing insight that allows them to atone for their sins and move on, finding new inspiration free of corrupting selfishness. In the end, it's art, not acclaim, that endures, and the muse, being divine, may be sought anywhere.
This article shared 2311 times since Wed Sep 12, 2012
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