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Radio Silence at the Nine Chicago | Theater review

A melange of sound-based shorts gets an uneven mix.

Photograph: Austin D. Oie
The Nine Chicago's Radio Silence

Installment two in Vannon’s series of free experimental performances offers a mixed bag of sound-based pieces. After opening with a seemingly interminable recorded version of Beckett’s radio play Words and Music, a guitar-saturated execution more Waiting for Guffman than Godot, we get Paul Rekk’s space oddity Peculiar Way. Alternating live scenes and sound recordings, the play follows the farewells of an astronaut scheduled for a suicide mission. As Mason (Michael Dice Jr.) springs his imminent departure on his girlfriend, wishes his pet turtle well and sullenly shares a few beers with his high-school pals, he slips the surly bonds of plausibility. Vannon’s actors are committed, and the use of cassette tapes leaves a patina of nostalgic pathos, but the underlying piece is just too thin.

The bill’s most elaborate piece salvages the event. With a frenetic cast of 15 lip-synching to an off-stage soundtrack, Cocteau’s infrequently staged Eiffel Tower Wedding Party is a delight, displaying the same blithe disregard for reality’s lack of imagination that animates his great films. In addition to the titular group, the surreal fantasia features a dancing ostrich, a lion that may or may not be a mirage and running commentary from an art dealer trying to sell the whole package to a collector. Narrators Austin D. Oie and Danelle Wildermuth translate the giddy proceedings for us with panache. The buoyant, homespun production makes you wish the whole program had been devoted to Cocteau.

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