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THEATER The Secret of the Biological Clock
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2019-05-15

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Playwright: Andie Arthur

At: Eclectic Full Contact Theatre at the Athenaeum, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Tickets: Eclectic-theatre.com 773-935-6860; $25-$30. Runs through: June 2

Don't be fooled by the title: This is not another grim grown-up gynecological jeremiad, nor a bumping-uglies spoof of classic ( and copyright-protected ) teen heroes Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. In fact, sexuality barely figures in a "coming-of-age" story for late-bloomers—i.e. over 30—based in metaphors as intricate as 3-D chess.

For some parts of the play, our locale is the aptly named town of Middlewood in 1965, where a group of enterprising adolescents exhibited a preternatural talent for domestic-level detection ( lost wills, missing jewelry, etc. ). This league of underage crimefighters consisted of Eleanor Dawson and her BFF Alice, Robert Wilder and his kid brother Peter, and, providing adult support, the latter's police officer father and nurturing mother. After Mrs. Wilder succumbs to cancer, though, Robert's grief leads him to suspect the drug companies of compliance in her death—obsessive delusions that may have precipitated his own self-destruction.

We then jump ahead twenty years. Alice is now employed in the Middlewood police force. Peter has written a series of immensely popular stories for young adults featuring characters based on his childhood peers, whose fictional adventures have escalated to major felonies like murder and espionage. He and Eleanor have moved back to the Dawson family home, with its attic repository of "case files." No sooner have they arrived, however, than a teenage waif turns up at their door, claiming to be the long-lost daughter of the absent—but possibly still alive—Robert.

Well, is she? Is he? Do the anonymous messages hinting at his survival constitute evidence, clues or are they hallucinations bred of guilt/ remorse/filial longing? When the boundaries between real life and shared fantasy grow blurred, can the lingering mystery of why good people have to die ever be resolved?

At this stage of its gestation, the sheer amount of information necessary to process Andie Arthur's ambitious procedural, while suited to the leisurely pace of a novel, makes for nearly two intermissionless hours of exposition delivered at dazzling speed. That said, audiences are advised to enjoy the sprightly performances of an agile and industrious cast frontlit by Aziza Macklin as the charming agent provocateur.


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