Chicago Reader
September 19, 1996

An Urban Odyssey

By Mary Shen Barnidge

AN URBAN ODYSSEY, at Cafe Voltaire. Probably the most fully realized of the four plays comprising this evening's program (not so much a "best of the fest" selection from the 1996 Bailiwick Repertory's Directors Festival as a showcase for Chicago playwrights) is Michael Gotch's Buzz. In this bubbly he-said, she-said comedy two would-be lovers recount their subjective tales to their respective companions; Doug Long directs a charming cast well acquainted with vernacular speech. Preceding it is Calvin Haines's To Set the Captive Free; directed by Michael Nowak, it's an intense theological dialogue between a model-citizen penitent and a street-scarred inquisitor, played with minimal subtext but meticulous phrasing by Arch Harmon and Nowak.

Unfortunately the remainder of "An Urban Odyssey" is taken up with two overlong, overwritten pieces. In Jeff Goode's Lesbian's Last Pizza, an extended telephone monologue (delivered with dogged conviction by Cheryl Snodgrass under the direction of Jennifer Shepard), an angry woman pleads with her mother, curses her father, and bullies her friends with such furious abandon that we immediately know she's planning her suicide. Number Nine is a hodgepodge of movement, mime, and vocalization by Eric Senne and the Number Nine Ensemble and directed by Senne. It's set to--you guessed it--the "Number Nine" track off the Beatles' White Album.

It is extremely rude, of course, to leave the theater during the first intermission. Remember that I said that.

--Mary Shen Barnidge