Friday, October 24, 2003

They had me at "whom."

Bob and I took in the second half of the Albee festival last night at the Goodman. The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? is Albee's latest work -- and, ironically, his most accessible. While his earlier plays work so hard to achieve his signature level of absurdity and abstraction, The Goat is remarkably straightforward ... albeit straightforwardly absurd. It involves the destruction of an otherwise happy family when the husband and father admits to carrying on a love affair with a goat, and Albee's deft handling of such a bizarre premise makes it easy for audiences to divorce themselves from its manifest absurdity and more acutely examine the underlying dynamics of love, betrayal, anger and friendship.

True to form, Albee fills the script with enough cultural and historical imagery to make any humanities teacher scurry to an encyclopedia, and he has a grand old time playing with language. His characters here, moreso than usual, are scholars and dilettantes, and their deft wordplay offers even deeper layers of enjoyment and enrichment as the story plays out. One of the great ironic juxtapositions in the play's construction is the raucous humor the wordplay provides over the epic Greek tragedy playing out in the character's lives -- especially with the wife. In my favorite scene, as she's struggling to come to terms with her husband's revelation, she keeps stumbling over the appropriate pronouns to use in reference to her sudden rival, the goat: she? it? her? It's impossible to do the scene justice here, but it's safe to say I've never laughed so hard over the word whom in my entire life.

The Goodman production is excellent, with special notice going to the actress playing the wife and mother. Her fall from upscale wife to destroyed cuckold is the stuff of Greek tragedy -- and her performance is nothing short of spectacular.

Bob and I started our evening at a rather forlorn little hotel restaurant with an ambitious menu, decent food and a pretty cool view of the Chicago River. But it was waaaaay more expensive than the online review led us to believe.

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