Brave Engineer: The Real Life Casey Jones Story

Solo performer Paul Turner may be a witty writer with a gift for spinning fascinating, sometimes fantastical yarns. But his greatest asset is that he speaks from the heart. The best moments in his shows are always those in which this quintessential southern Illinois good old boy lets down his guard and we see the man behind the macho masks. In “The Hick”–his contribution to an evening of solo pieces called The Hick, the Spic, and the Chick–that moment came when Turner described the awful emptiness he and his classmates felt when they realized they had no future in their hometown of Cairo. In a few stark images–the pitted roads, the fluorescent-light nightmare of working in a discount hardware store–Turner managed to convey exactly how it feels to be 18, full of life, and trapped in a place where the economy is in shambles and chain stores have driven all the local shopkeepers out of business. In his new show, Turner tackles the story of Casey Jones, the Illinois Central railroad engineer who died during a train wreck trying to save his passengers. And as you might expect from a storyteller in love with the truth, Turner is most interested in revealing the man behind the legend. Live Bait Theater, 3914 N. Clark, 773-871-1212. April 20 through 22: Thursday-Saturday, 8 PM. $10. –Jack Helbig