Two-Minute Drill Be Aware - Neo-Futurists Create Brilliant Study of Ibsen's Works
Helbig, Jack, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Jack Helbig Daily Herald Correspondent
"The Last Two Minutes of the Complete Works of Henrik Ibsen"
out of four
Location: Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland, Chicago
Times: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays through March 5
Running time: 2 hours with intermission
Parking: Free on the street
Tickets: $15; pay what you can on Thursdays
Box office: (773) 275-5255
Rating: General audiences
Greg Allen has made a career of coming up with fresh, new ways to do theater. The director/writer/actor first made his name in the late '80s with "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," a show that quickly became a long-running late-night hit for Allen and his fellow Neo-Futurists. Sixteen years later, it's still running.
Allen's latest foray into theater is a brilliant and surprisingly entertaining study of Norway's most important playwright, Henrik Ibsen. Of course, lots of people have tackled Ibsen before, both on stage and in print.
George Bernard Shaw was an early supporter of Ibsen and spent gallons of ink defending Ibsen's often controversial plays: "A Doll's House," "Hedda Gabler," "Ghosts," "An Enemy of the People."
But no one has ever done before what Allen and Company do here: They stage in order of creation the last two minutes or so of every play Ibsen wrote, all 26 of them. Starting with the romantic trifles he wrote in his early 20s and ending with his last mysterious and powerful play, "When We Dead Awaken."
These selections are performed Neo-Futurist-style, with a minimum of costumes, props, lighting and sound cues. And when the plays are awful, as a lot of Ibsen's earliest plays are, they are played for laughs. Few things are as funny as melodramatic writing that tries to tug at your heartstrings and fails.
The interesting thing, though, is that as Ibsen's plays improve, the tone of the show turns, from comic to serious and from sketch- comedy-style send-up to carefully considered homage. The short performance of the ending to "A Doll's House" is one of the most moving versions of that famous scene I've ever seen. …