Pavement Group. By Gregory Moss. Dir. David Perez. With Matt Farabee, Alexander Lane.
Receiving its Chicago premiere as one-third of the new repertory at Steppenwolf’s Garage, Moss’s brilliantly funny dissection of adolescent grasping for identity is set in the amorphous ’80s, as Duck (Lane) and Mickey (Farabee) discover punk rock and work on discovering themselves. In scenes as rat-a-tat as a Ramones track, the two battle over band names, experience their first porn and hero-worship their local idol Chris Sawtelle (a spot-on Keith Neagle). Did we mention this all takes place on roller skates?
Perez and Sabin’s transformation of Mickey’s bedroom is both ingenious and in keeping with the boys’ new fondness for tearing down the status quo; David Hyman’s killer costumes are equally inventive. As the boys begin to grow apart, with Duck seeing punk as simply a new set of rules against which Mickey chafes, Farabee and Lane, both new to Chicago, are nothing less than astonishing. Moss, a recent Brown M.F.A., finally provides Mickey with an explicit lesson we can only wish we’d been gifted with.
The Twins Would Like to Say
Dog & Pony Theatre Company. By Seth Bockley and Devon de Mayo. Dirs. Bockley, de Mayo. With ensemble cast.
The true story of twins June and Jennifer Gibbons inspires Dog & Pony’s promenade-style fantasia. The troubled Gibbons girls, who were born in the West Indies but grew up in lily-white Wales, made a pact never to communicate with adults, inventing a secret language of their own. In de Mayo and Bockley’s ensemble-devised piece, we see episodes from their adolescence and enactments of their prolific output of cockeyed fiction (often, heartbreakingly, obsessed with the adventures of blond and blue-eyed Malibu teens).
The staging suggests a more contained, grounded version of de Mayo’s 2008 work As Told by the Vivian Girls, which similarly attempted to get inside the head of an outsider artist. Set designer Grant Sabin’s sliding panels smartly reconfigure and guide us through the space. The uncanny Paige Collins and Ashleigh LaThrop lead a terrific ensemble; if de Mayo and Bockley’s story ends a little abruptly, well, so did June and Jennifer’s.
XIII Pocket. By Stephen Louis Grush. Dir. Grush. With Eric Leonard, Paige Smith.
Grush’s new play takes as its inspiration the real-life case of two German men who met on an online fetish site; one of the men consented to be killed and eaten by the other. Dramatic stuff, to be sure. Trouble is, the writer-director doesn’t do enough to dramatize it. His piece consists largely of dual monologues, cannibalizer Armin (Leonard) and his lover/meal Bernd (Smith) telling us their story after the fact (Bernd presumably speaking from beyond the grave).
Grush gives his characters some well-written observations on the mundanity of modern life and the democratizing anonymity of the Internet, and he makes some interesting (and some less so) use of video. But the decision to render the telling in past tense keeps us at a remove; more crucially, for all the men’s proclamations of eternal love for each other, there’s zero urgency or electricity when they finally share a scene.