LITTLE VICTORIES, Scrap Mettle Soul, at Margate Park Community Center. A company with roots in Park District programs and nonprofits like Lakefront SRO, Scrap Mettle Soul produces “plays based on locally gathered oral histories… performed by the people of the community…for the people of the community,” according to its mission statement. Artistic director Richard Geer created this “community performance” model to strengthen local street culture through the bonding experience of ensemble performance. This spring’s installment, Little Victories, is not surprisingly an unwaveringly compassionate, jaw-droppingly inclusive, revoltingly well-intentioned effort that would blunt the pen of the coldest misanthrope in reviewerdom.
This kind of show renders the standard critical vocabulary wholly irrelevant–and the critic too, except inasmuch as he’s human (a tenuous proposition). Though I use the word with writhing reluctance, Little Victories pretty much empowers everyone in its hundred-plus cast, representing the crazy quilt of abilities, ages, and ethnicities that is Edgewater/Uptown. The vibe in the auditorium, stacked to the rafters with the performers’ smiling friends and relatives, made unconditional amiability impossible to resist. And the facticity of the tales, despite some tritely inspirational turns and phrasings, was undeniable. Worst of all was the riot of adorable tots onstage and in the audience, nearly indistinguishable thanks to the general interpenetration of this theater-in-the-round production: their gigglings and cavortings produced countless lovely ambient effects doubtlessly, um, “improvised.” After ten minutes I put my notebook away, defeated.