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Monday, June 29, 2009

Alchemist Theatre Welcomes “Sexual Perversity”

Mamet’s dark comedy comes to Bay View

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In the era somewhere between the sexual revolution and the popular realization that indiscriminate sex can kill, a young David Mamet wrote a play about the sex lives of young, urban Midwesterners. Some 30 years later, the once controversial Sexual Perversity in Chicago is being staged at the Alchemist Theatre on South Kinnickinnic Avenue.

Though Mamet's frank dialogue about sex, romance, life and other distractions no longer has the kind of raw impact it did in the mid-'70s, director Michael Weber says the script speaks to certain universals that continue to define romantic relationships in an age of text messages and online social networking.

Ken Dillon stars as Dan, a white-collar Chicagoan in his late-20s who finds himself in a romantic relationship with a woman named Deborah (Beth Lewinski). As things progress rapidly between Dan and Deborah, certain problems arise. Dan discusses his romantic difficulties with Bernard, a gruff gentleman played by Kirk Thomsen.

As witnessed in his solo performance in Boulevard Theatre's recent production Thom Pain (based on nothing), Dillon can definitely bring the complexity of human emotion to the stage. Thomsen has a tougher task with the role of Bernard. A rough-around-the-edges misogynist, Bernard would seem to lack the poise, precision and overall nice-guy charm so fundamental to Thomsen's demeanor. But if the role is handled in the right way, Thomsen could pull off a truly interesting performance. Desiree Gibson rounds out the cast as Bernard's love interest, Joan. Gibson, who's had a busy summer, comes to the show fresh from Loose Canon Theatre's production of Hamlet, which closed last week.

Mamet's ear for authentic dialogue makes much of the mid-'70s Chicago vernacular sound dated to modern ears. But the challenge of breathing new life into old dialogue should be eased by the direction of Weber, who was about the same age as Dan in roughly the same era. Pop music and videos from the era should further define the time and atmosphere of what could be a compelling trip back to Chicago in the 1970s.

Alchemist Theatre's production of Sexual Perversity in Chicago runs July 9-25.

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