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The Fisherman
THEATER REVIEW
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times
2012-03-07

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Playwright: Jayme McGhan. At: Stage Left at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: 773-677-6398; www.theaterwit.org; $25. Runs through: April 1

The Fisherman succinctly offers a superb rationale for anti-capitalist violence in this country. The terrorist act at its center seems (to me) perfectly justified, and makes me wonder when an organized assassination movement may be launched against exploitative and greedy corporate and banking honchos and union leaders who have grown on the backs of labor.

Such acts would not be in my own best interest. It's taken me 40 years, but I've managed to make myself modestly secure even without the guarantees of a union contract—a security dependent on a stable political economy. Still, to reduce this play's call-to-action to something local, I don't understand why Chicagoans have not taken up sledgehammers and smashed every parking pay box in town. Hey, they can't arrest us all. The Tea Party shouldn't be arguing against tax hikes, they should be arguing in favor of term limits for political figures and CEOs, which may be the only way to limit entrenched power and political oligarchy.

However, The Fisherman refuses to be highly polemic in the manner, say, of Clifford Odets's Waiting for Lefty or Mark Blitzstein's agit-prop The Cradle Will Rock. I wish it were, but playwright Jayme McGhan gives equal importance to a domestic drama about three brothers, one of whom is a ghost. While this half of the play produces some moving moments and telling character notes, it's not the same play as the sociopolitical story and, frankly, not as galvanizing. For the next round, McGhan needs to choose between having a powerful and current political drama or a familiar family drama.

For the record, The Fisherman is set in present-day Minnesota, where an airline Chapter 11 reorganization leaves two brothers, Carl and Chucky, without jobs and with their union pension gutted after 35 years as airline mechanics. One decides to take matters into his own hands. Chucky's adult daughter, Jenny, a cop, also figures in when she necessarily must stand for law and order against her own close family. A third brother, Mutt, is seen only by Carl and serves as an emotional depth gauge, a function also served by Jenny, in part. Since Mutt has nothing at all to do with the socio-political side of the play, he's the candidate for elimination.

As staged by Drew Martin, The Fisherman is an excellent production. McGhan writes his characters with warmth and reality, and so they are played in greatly appealing performances laced with gruff charm by Michael Pacas (Carl), Sandy Elias (Chucky), Kate Black-Spence (Jenny) and Ian Maxwell (Mutt). Alan Donohue (scenic) and John Kohn III (lighting) provide a lovely deep, high fishing pier that smacks of the North Woods boundary waters. I could all but hear the loons.


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