Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

J. B.

By Archibald MacLeish

J B by MacLeish

Directed by Emma Peterson

Produced by Chicago Fusion Theatre

At Oracle Theater Chicago

Noisy, unfocused parable too ambitious

After all the shouting and strange movements, J.B. simply wore me out. The story, a Tony winner and a Pulitzer Prize winner (1958-59) is MacLeish’s parable retelling of book of Job that puts J.B.’s (Jason Economus) faith to the test.¬† Two circus vendors – Mr. Nickles (Virginia Marie) and Sandy Elisa (Zuss) decide to reenact Job’s story. This play-within-a-play has a wealthy banker – J.B. goes from a happy prosperous family man with a fine wife and a hose full of children to a hopeless and desperate man devoid of all family members. It is the ultimate man’s test of faith.

j b by macLeish

Unfortunately, director Emma Peterson¬† defuses the story with screaming, over acting and an assortment of circus style movement and Apache dance (a sort of fight dance) that clouded the storytelling. While I admire the ensemble’s efforts and the heart wrenching performance by Jason Economus, J.B. quickly wears out its welcome and becomes a unclear tedious actor’s exercise. All the chanting, grunting and superfluous dialogue together with all the physical movements deluded the story. For most of the 2 hours, I wasn’t sure what was happening and by the time I realized what was happening, I couldn’t care less about J.B.’s plight.

If you like shows with avant-guarde physical movements and Eastern European style clowns used to enhance storytelling, than J.B. is for you.  I found it more irritating and confusing than stage worthy.

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

At Oracle Theatre,3809 N Broadway, Chicago, IL,, tickets $20, Thursdays & Sundays at 7 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through April 18, 2010

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