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THEATER REVIEW Love and Human Remains
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2015-06-17

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Playwright: Brad Fraser. At: Cor Theatre at Rivendell, 5779 N. Ridge Ave. Tickets: 866-811-4111; www.cortheatre.org; $25. Runs through: July 11

Brad Fraser's group portrait of young Canadians embracing the sunset of nihilistic hedonism—before the fallout from the AIDS epidemic registered across all segments of society—was a lot more shocking in 1991. The danger of libidinal license is a theme long exploited in films, but rarely depicted in live performance with the take-no-prisoners vigor of the sensation-seeking singles of Edmonton.

More than two decades after its premiere ( under the title Unidentified Human Remains and The True Nature of Love ) at the Halsted Theatre Center, the locale is now Chicago, where Candy and David share an apartment. Het Candy is a book reviewer bent on achieving personal perfection. Gay David is an ex-TV actor who cruises "Montrose Harbor" for anonymous hookups. David's acquaintances also include boyhood chum Bernie, now a married corporate suit given to blackout alcoholic binges, and professional dominatrix Benita, endowed with psychic powers and an affinity for gruesome urban legends and true-crime narratives. At present, David is being shadowed by an underaged former fan, while Candy is aggressively pursued by a clingy lesbian schoolteacher and a nerdy hubby temporarily free of marital obligations.

Our first hint that this will not be a La Ronde-style musical-boudoirs romp—beside a scenic design presenting us with a quasi-Mark Rothko portal-to-the-abyss graphic hanging over a bed swaddled in linens suggesting a vampire's coffin—is the news that a serial killer is at large in the city. Then Bernie arrives at the door covered in a stranger's blood, with no memory of what precipitated these events. Instead of calling the police, however, David takes his buddy to visit his mind-reading leathergirl pal.

The visual intimacy offered by Rivendell's shoebox auditorium might reduce the noirish ambience that Fraser's script strives to evoke, but the increased audibility generated by the actors' proximity allows playgoers capable of shrugging off the visceral dazzle to perceive in the murderer's motive an amalgam of the impulses driving his peers, taken to extremes—David's view of human beings as interchangeable consumer commodities, Candy's efforts to shape reality in conformance with an idealized fantasy, their besotted suitors' refusal to move beyond superficial adolescent crushes.

Cor Theatre's aesthetic being rooted in physical expression, the minimalistic approach to the simulated sex-and-violence acrobatics necessitated by restricted stage space do nothing to diminish the kinetic excitement generated by an ensemble as athletically impressive as it is verbally agile. The results make for a smartly constructed morality fable of wayward pilgrims discovering the error of obsessive egotism as well as the vows to love honestly and wisely.


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