"Beauty of the Father"
Infidelity and the pull of literature figured prominently in Nilo Cruz's
Emiliano (Madrid St. Angelo) is a sexually amorphous painter living outside Granada,
The high-ceilinged church theater space (a late replacement for the now-shut Chicago Center for the Performing Arts) makes for a tricky environment. Cruz is a writer more enchanted with poetic symbols and atmosphere than dramatic narrative, and some of the passages feel swallowed up by the tricky acoustics. Nor does the space lend itself to the relaxed intimacy suggested by Cruz's languid seaside setting. But Ivan Vega's Lorca (dapper in a cream suit) brings a delicious ironic flavoring to his observations. When Emiliano describes him as "dead," he suggests "perished" as an alternative, noting, "There are words that can alleviate reality."
Oddly, though Lorca is presented as the victim of Franco-era prejudices, there is a whiff of xenophobia in how Karim, the street-hustling immigrant, is treated by Emiliano and Paquita once his passion for Marina becomes apparent. Images of balloons, bonfires, birds' nests and eclipses all suggest that the characters in Cruz's world occupy a place on the knife's edge between homey comfort and painful transformation. Though there are many individual moments of beauty and wit here, they don't quite add up to a compelling or convincing whole. Vega's Lorca notes that, "Love has always been a thick forest that I've never been able to enter," and this production doesn't fully penetrate into the heart of the unconventional family ties onstage.
Through Nov. 19 at
"Pluto Is Listening"
An unconventional sort-of-romance also takes center stage with InFusion Theatre Company's "Pluto Is Listening." David Parr's two-character play follows Grace (Corrbette Pasko) and Benjamin (Josh Hambrock), a pair of misfits in Pluto, Ohio, who bond over their mutual misery: a mother dead by suicide for her, an abusive father for him.
The demotion of Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet forms an unconvincing side story for the two — a symbol of their own sense of being unmoored in the world. But Parr's decision to jump back and forth over a span of 20 years means we spend more time trying to remember where we are in the characters' lives — and trying to decide if what we're seeing is real or a psychotic hallucination — than fully investing in what has happened to them over the years.
It all starts feeling coy and self-conscious after a while. Fortunately, director Mitch Golob finds enough breathing room from time to time for some genuinely affecting interludes between Pasko's histrionic Grace (given to malapropisms such as "It's all water under the fridge") and Hambrock's more choleric Benjamin — particularly a scene on a school bus where they dodge the spitballs (neatly captured by Kevin Viol's clever videography) their abusive schoolmates shower upon them. It feels truthful and empathetic in a way that Parr's more high-flown metaphors do not. There are more than enough nightmares in being small-town outcasts to make for a sympathetic tale without dragging the pecking order of the Milky Way into the proceedings.
Through Nov. 20 at Apollo Studio Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave.; $20 at 773-935-6100 or infusiontheatre.com