Snooty, Bailiwick Repertory. Renewing its commitment to the hearing impaired with its “Deaf Bailiwick Artists” program, the company offers the Chicago premiere of this brief, well-meaning script by Raymond Luczak, which won first place in a 1990 New York deaf-theater competition. Set in a school for the hearing impaired, the play follows the trials of an earnest seventh-grader (nicknamed “Snooty” for his standoffish bookwormy ways) who indulges in Walter Mittyish fantasies of being a 1920s Chicago gangster while trying to fit in with his rambunctious classmates.
Flip-flopping between broad representations of grade school pranks and Al Capone-style fantasy, Luczak’s play offers yet another take on a young outcast’s attempts to assimilate, rendered familiar by such diverse efforts as Dr. Seuss’s Gerald McBoing Boing and Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy.” Snooty might be valuable as an educational tool, especially in its eye-opening depictions of the barriers within the deaf community between individuals who use different sign languages. But two-dimensional characters and hackneyed plot devices (including an homage to the film Sixteen Candles–the hero proves his mettle by snaring a pair of panties from the girls’ locker room) rob the play of any real dramatic interest.
Under Jesus Perez’s direction, Bailiwick offers an energetic but shallow production. Playing preteens and 1920s gangsters and molls alike as unsophisticated stereotypes, the cast fails to add depth or credibility to a simplistic, predictable script. –Adam Langer