Cafe Universe

Though Ernest Hemingway was once one of the most famous and fashionable writers in America, his reputation has been in steady decline since his suicide in 1961. In fact, 38 years after his death it’s far easier to find people who loathe the man than love him. Which is a shame, because behind the writer always out to prove his manhood by killing big game with big guns was an artist: especially early in his career–before he got the knack of imitating himself–Hemingway wrote some of the most graceful, heartfelt stories in 20th-century literature. In honor of his 100th birthday, the Oak Park-based Ernest Hemingway Foundation will host Cafe Universe, an evening of scenes set in cafes from the Nick Adams stories, among them “The Killers,” “Capital of the World,” and “The Battler.” Cobbled together by Hemingway’s pal and biographer A.E. Hotchner, who wrote the memoir Papa Hemingway and several previous adaptations of Hemingway’s work, Cafe Universe will be performed by actors from Washington University in Saint Louis. Not all of these fragments are flattering to Hemingway; one especially misogynistic scene shows an argument between a man and woman that ends with him smacking her across the face. And sadly no single piece in the show is long enough to reveal the depths hidden beneath Hemingway’s laconic style. But aficionados will relish how beautiful his words sound aloud and how well his sharp, staccato dialogue works onstage. Nineteenth Century Women’s Club, 178 Forest, Oak Park, 708-848-2222. February 26 through 28: Friday, 8 PM (preceded at 6:30 PM by dinner and a swing-dancing demonstration); Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 PM. $15-$18 for the play only; $60 per person or $100 per couple for the benefit play, dinner, and dancing on Friday.

–Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): theater still.