Jay Torrence’s ambitious new play, which he directs with Kristie Koehler, examines an almost forgotten chapter in showbiz history: the 1918 collision of a military train outside Hammond, Indiana, with railway cars belonging to the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. Eighty-seven of the circus people were killed (no one on the military train was so much as hurt), and many of the dead were never identified. Torrence provides beguiling narratives for three of those lost to history, interweaving their stories with a broad meditation on the transience of the theatrical experience and the costs of war. The show comes dangerously close to jumping the rails whenever the six energetic cast members (including Torrence) go crazy with the Neo-Futurist meta aesthetic (“We’re putting on a show, and isn’t it a hoot?”). But like all good clowns Torrence knows that pathos wins the day, and the conclusion of this 90-minute collage of “historical fact and historical fiction” is heartrendingly gorgeous. Through 9/30: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland, 773-275-5255, $10-$15, “pay what you can” on Thursday.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Brosilow.