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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Theater Fri Jul 05 2013

The Burden of Not Having a Tail Asks Apocalypse When?

At first it seems that we might be in for a comic version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, where a father and son try to survive in a post-apocalyptic wilderness.

Sideshow Theatre's one-woman show features Karie Miller as Woman, a "prepper," living in her underground bunker, getting ready for the sure-to-come apocalypse. We, her audience, are there to learn how to be preppers, too. The warnings and the signs are grim but Woman keeps us entertained with many laugh lines and humorous incidents.

This 70-minute world premiere was written by Carrie Barrett and directed by Megan A. Smith, who keeps the general tone of the play light despite the grim undertones.


Karie Miller; photo by Jonathan L. Green.

What is The Burden of Not Having a Tail? That becomes clear early in the play. Woman, who is big on audience participation, asks us all to feel behind us for our "heinie nub" (just at the base of your spine, however, she describes this location differently.) "Our tails used to help us wag our troubles away," she says. But now, we have one less thing to help us survive.

The set is a well-organized storage room at the beginning, but bins and shelves gradually fall apart and tumble around her. She advises us on the items we need to stockpile for the future: Rice? As much as possible. Frozen egg yolks for making mayonnaise? Yes. Scented shampoos and lotions? Maybe not.

It gradually becomes clear that Woman has given herself over to apocalyptic preparation to cover her grief at the death of her baby, Brandy. The child apparently died of a brain tumor and Woman flays herself about how or whether she could have done more to help her.

A one-person show is very tough. It's hard to create a dramatic arc or a narrative that holds the audience's attention and makes us care how the story ends. This script just doesn't quite succeed, although Miller works hard to overcome these weaknesses. She interviews two audience members and brings one up to sit on stage with her. At one point, she gets out a beach ball and plays catch with the audience. She is alternately chipper, cheerleading, charming, and accepting, as her underground bunker collapses around her.

At the end, Woman exhorts us to join her in chanting, "We're only human. Do your best. It's not our fault."


Sideshow Theatre Company will present The Burden of Not Having a Tail through August 4 at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online. For more information, call 773-809-4782 or visit the theater company's website.

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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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