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Chicago Arts Scene Commentary

for the Week of May 7, 2001

Theater Review:

"BLIND FAITH" at ACME THEATER

BY LUCIA MAURO

A wizard of modern word play, Sean Farrell is capable of lacing his dramatic prose with multiple meanings to create eternally shape-shifting universes. His unique voice as a playwright gravitates toward the deepest recesses of the subconscious mind while tackling the demons that plague most family relationships.

After a three-year hiatus, Farrell – a Boston native who has lived in Chicago for a decade – is premiering a new semi-abstracted drama, "Blind Faith," at the new Acme Theater on the near west side. Unlike his internal monologue-driven pieces, like "The Moon Is Brighter: An Obituary" and "Bamboozled," this play aims for more urgent plot advancement and visceral dialogue. Yet Farrell’s affinity for double, triple, even quadruple entendres weaves through a work that appears to have the trappings of a more traditional play.

Two women – who might be sisters – confront each other’s tormented pasts in a church basement that becomes a psychotherapist’s office and the setting for a tense brainstorming session for a movie treatment. The word "treatment," then, traverses many different planes. And as these gun-wielding rivals (on the brink of homicide and suicide) are about to "give birth" to their cinematic babies, multi-tiered revelations about real miscarriages and aborted plans take on a disturbing immediacy.

That said, "Blind Faith" is a pretty radical departure for a playwright capable of caressing words with reverence and a luminous sense of abandonment. Despite the verbal complexities colliding between the lines, Farrell does not achieve the level of profound suggestion that unfolds harmoniously in his earlier plays. It seems as if the playwright has edited the light and mystery out of the drama in his effort to write a more conventionally structured work.

What should be evocative, comes across as whiny and belligerent – even pointless. Andrea J. Dymond’s charged staging features intriguing but erratic work by Beth Lacke (as Mary, a mentally unbalanced former novitiate-turned-pseudo-shrink) and Danica Ivancevic (as Liza, a confrontational cokehead who works in the film industry). But the actors seem to be treading water as they fail to push their characters beyond an unsettling sense of psychotic rage.

Audiences have to work very hard to comprehend what’s going on. Sadly, there’s no dramatic payoff worthy of their intense intellectual efforts. •

"Blind Faith" – a Smilin O’ Production in conjunction with Van Chester Productions -- runs through June 9 at Acme Theater, 1444 W. Chicago Ave. Tickets: $15. Call 312-850-1444.

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