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« Liminal: New Paintings by Trine Bumiller An Evening at the Filmless Fest »

Theatre Sat Mar 06 2010

XIII Pocket's Adore with Steppenwolf's Garage Rep

There's a fine line between shock and intrigue. It's not necessarily the violence that makes people despise "torture porn" with such ferocity, it's that the creators have done nothing to earn the violence. Atmosphere and character is traded for string squeals and cocktail declarations, rendering the explosive moments of gore gimmicky and exploitative instead of visceral and cathartic. It's easy and lame and destroying the horror genre slowly but surely.

Adore2.JPG

But XIII Pocket artistic director Stephen Louis Grush's Adore, currently running at the Steppenwolf Garage, doesn't want to be a horror play (to it's benefit or detriment, I'm not sure); it wants to be a love story. Based off of true events, the play follows Armin (Eric Leonard), a cannibal, and Bernd (Paige Smith), who agrees to be his victim. The play's humorless first half desperately tries to show us that this act is rooted in love, that this is the only form of human connection that makes sense to them. Not a bad idea, necessarily, and Grush does a fine job of never judging his characters for their sexual perversions, but steeping the majority of it in excruciating, cliché-ridden memory monologues does little to establish this connection, let alone build the kind of dramatic drive the play urgently needs. Their meeting, a moment that should've been the tingling prelude to climax, feels perfunctory and bloodless, doing nothing to justify this "all-consuming" love that's driving this entire play.

Luckily, Grush's direction fares better than his script. He keeps the proceedings appropriately spare and dim, and his use of video, though washed in the same briney murk of the "torture porn" sect, is slick and effective. Smith's conversation with a televised Patrick Andrews (delivering the most compelling performance of the night in his three minutes) stands out as an incredibly effective use of crossing mediums, but it's a bad sign when the strongest relationship of the play is the one with the most distance.

If you're going to write a play about subject matter as stomach-churning and morally complex as true love via cannibalism (which is ambitious as hell), you've got to earn it. Otherwise the audience is chuckling at the most gruesome passage in the play, a passage that could have symbolized the honest, awkward connection at the center of all this cruelty.

Adore's subject matter isn't the problem. It's the inelegance of its handling, so clumsy that an empty, cringe-inducing "shock", not a creeping sense of perverse understanding, is all one can really hope to take away.

Adore rotates with a repertory that includes The Twins Would Like to Say by Dog & Pony Theatre Company and punkplay by The Pavement Group. The show goes up in the Merle Reskin Garage Theatre (1624 N. Halsted). Tickets are $20 and available here or by calling 312-335-1650. Student tickets are $12 and every Wednesday performance is "pay what you can."

Adore1.JPG

Photo by Peter Combs.

 
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Joe / March 29, 2010 8:43 AM

Dreckatude!

Truly nothing redeeming about this piece other than that is 62 minutes rather than 63. With puerile writing met with clumsy, bumbling acting, there is a reason the "play" averages audiences of 10 or less.

Of all the works available today and of all the creative writers, directors, actors and companies with lesser backing (Steppenwolf for God's sake?!), there is absolutely no reason this work should have ever seen the lights of Chicago Theaters.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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