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Edmond, Hypocrites, at the Boxer Rebellion Theater. Paving the way for Northlight Theatre’s Chicago premiere of David Mamet’s The Old Neighborhood next month are several off-Loop revivals of the Chicago-bred playwright’s works. On the heels of Wing & Groove Theatre’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago comes this terse, tough drama, premiered in 1982 at the Goodman studio–a crisp series of short scenes depicting one straight white middle-class male pilgrim’s progress through spiritual death and rebirth. Jettisoning wife, home, and job, the racist, homophobic Edmond plunges into the urban underworld; cheated by whores and brutalized by thugs, he turns to senseless violence and winds up in jail, where he becomes his black cellmate’s lover and finds contentment by embracing the taboos that once terrified him.
This is strange stuff, full of humor and horror in equal measure. The Hypocrites’ fast-paced production captures the former: under Sean Graney’s direction, the ensemble’s economical, precisely focused line readings convey the anxious tension that shapes Mamet’s distinctive dark comedy, and Alex Smith’s stark lighting suggests one of R. Crumb’s angst-filled urban sketchbooks. The early scene in which Edmond leaves his wife is played by John Sierros and Roz Francis in perfectly deadpan yet crackling style. But Sierros never conveys the sense of profound psychic transformation needed to make Edmond’s descent into a living nightmare credible and meaningful, as it was in the Pillar Studio’s staging two years ago.