During the years playwright Paul Peditto was writing Buk: The Life and Times of Charles Bukowski, Bukowski wrote him a series of letters. Many of them were sympathy letters, flavored with a strong dose of Bukowski philosophy and encouraging Peditto to press on in the often difficult struggle to get the play produced (one friend of Peditto’s suggested that if no one would produce Buk, he could write a play called Dear Charles). For this Live Bait Theater-Prop Theatre coproduction of Buk, the letters have been hung on the lobby walls, where they serve as proof of how fully Peditto has captured the soul of the poet. The production has an odd poetic quality at the same time that it gives the audience a visceral sense of the drunken haze that envelops Bukowski’s world. The wild-eyed and athletically graceful Doug Spinuzza plays young Henry Chinaski (Bukowski’s alter ego, who achieved notoriety in the 1985 documentary Poetry in Motion), and Vincent Balestri (of Kerouac: The Essence of Jack fame, though he’s so completely transformed here as to be unrecognizable) plays the older version. The two characters frequently interact with each other, and Balestri and Spinuzza play in perfect counterpoint, delighting in each other’s presence, while lighting designer Tom Hase’s deeply saturated colors combine with set designer Sharon Evans’s paint-splattered shower curtains to give the production an otherworldliness. At Live Bait Theater, through January 5 (3914 N. Clark, 871-1212). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 PM; Sundays, 7 PM. $10-$15.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/J. Alexander Newberry.