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Fresh from a showcase in Wales, Goat Island returns to Chicago with the American premiere of The Sea & Poison, a complicated, sardonic, grueling journey through the landscapes of propaganda and war. With ritualistic intensity, director Lin Hixson and her courageous performers move smoothly from task to task: two men talk about their rubber-frog offspring (who keep reappearing like silly, creepy specters); a man plants a seed on his head; a limp dancer is dragged around until everyone drops from exhaustion. Stories from survivors of gulf war syndrome, classic sci-fi movies, 1948 Camay soap ads, and passages from Hamlet are woven together in a dreamlike map of 20th-century obsessions, fantasies, and losses. Developed during several European residencies, this show sharply divided audiences into three groups last month in Wales: the stunned, the hypnotized, and the bemused. The Sea & Poison brings a new lightness to Goat Island’s challenging aesthetic, a playful wit that deftly highlights the haunting, sometimes beautiful brutality of Hixson’s physical theater. Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, gymnasium, 615 W. Wellington (courtyard entrance), 773-281-3953. Opens Friday, April 30, 7 PM. Through May 9: Fridays-Sundays, 7 PM. $12. The show on Saturday, May 1, is followed by a “context talk/response” by environmental health specialist Peter Murchie. –Carol Burbank