Nebraskoblivion, at the Lunar Cabaret. Archaeologists reconstruct whole civilizations from a few crumbling artifacts–and fortunately the friends of supposed reclusive playwright “Joe Whyte” from Johnson, Nebraska, have the fragments of the last play he wrote before he disappeared. The show must go on, of course, so from the scraps of his manuscript–some of it scribbled on the backs of bills and receipts, the rest in no discernible order–the five actors in this Rhinoceros Theater Festival production attempt to forge a narrative. It leaps wildly, however, from a couple with marital problems to a brooding Unabomber type to a hitchhiker taken on an Icarus-like flight through outer space.
More remarkable than Chicago playwright Chris Conry’s yarn is the fact that it’s never any more chaotic than it has to be. As directed by Susanna C. Gellert, the players never deviate from the playwright’s concept to gratuitously embellish their characters but retain a straight-faced aplomb throughout even the most absurd transitions: dropped without warning into otherwise realistic scenes are a Vietnam era firefight and a daredevil road trip up Mount Everest. The resulting show may not tell us much about the fate of Joe Whyte, but its universe is established with such total-immersion verisimilitude that we wonder if the receipts littering the stage really were rung up in Johnson, Nebraska. –Mary Shen Barnidge