Daniel Mason’s luminous 2002 debut novel of the same title takes the literary antecedents of the colonial narrative–notably Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”–and transforms them into an original, engaging, and timely tale. James E. Grote’s smart adaptation, cunningly directed by Jonathan Berry, captures the feverish quality of Mason’s prose and honors the complexity of his characters, who are not quite what they appear. It’s 1886, and a diffident piano tuner (a nuanced Patrick Blashill) is sent from London to work on a rare piano owned by a Kurtz-like British army surgeon (tantalizing enigma Kurt Ehrmann) posted to a region of Burma torn by various factions. Both men are caught up in the conflict between devotion to art and the imperatives of British colonial rule, and the results are heartbreakingly inevitable. Precise characterizations and fluid design elements evoke an exotic, seductive twilight world. a Through 3/25: Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 4 and 8 PM, Sun 5:30 PM, Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood, 773-761-4477, $14-$26.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Suzanne Plunkett.