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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Theater: Scotland Road
2007-05-09

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Playwright: Jeffrey Hatcher

At: Oracle Theatre, 3908 N. Broadway

Runs through: May 27

Phone: 773-244-2980; $15-$20

By Catey Sullivan

Somewhere in Scotland Road there's the kernel of an intriguing story. The sinking of the Titanic is, after all, a slice of American lore steeped in legend and intrigue. But Jeffrey Hatcher's inert play wastes the promise of its premise. Burdened by psychobabble, pacing that calls to mind watching paint dry and energy-free performances, Scotland Road is not a street worth exploring.

This misguided production directed to leaden enervation by Ben Fuchsen begins just after a young woman has been found floating on an iceberg off the coast of Iceland. She's dressed in early 19th-century apparel, and speaks only one word: 'Titanic.' Following some New Age-y video of water and clouds, we're dropped into a sterile examining room and introduced the mind-numbing, suspension-of-disbelief-defying investigations of John, a Titanic-obsessed scientist of some sort. John's basically kidnapped the woman on the ice berg so he can interrogate her.

Leaving aside the utter incredulity of the set-up, Scotland Road is a technical mess. Take, for example, the fact that much of the first scene plays out behind the screen the opening video was projected on. The audience is forced to watch the ( in ) action through a vision-obstructing veil. The result, to fall back on cliché, is one of taking a bath with a raincoat on: one of cumbersome pointlessness.

Through the screen, we watch John watching the woman on various video monitors and trying to make her talk by turning up the thermostat ( don't ask—it's not worth explaining ) as well as by serving meals with elaborate cutlery set-ups ( ditto ) .

Even if the dialogue had a whit of spark to it, Scotland Road would still be all but unwatchable because of the numerous blackouts. The pattern is numbing: A few sentences of snail-paced, pointless dialogue followed by a blackout that ends, dismayingly, when the lights go back up on the same small, static room we just left.

Things get interesting—although not in a good way—with the appearance of a Titanic survivor who has conveniently surfaced just minutes from the all-but hermetically sealed off room where the mystery woman is being kept. Here's why things get interesting: The survivor is painted gray. It's impossible to look at her without marveling at her skin tone. It's not old, it's not even human.

Scotland Road is billed as a multimedia experience, and there is indeed plenty of video in it courtesy of Gimpydog Productions. Thanks to that video, we get to watch the mystery woman doing things like brushing her hair and sitting on her bed. It's a toss-up as to which is more interesting —that footage or the blackouts.


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