The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol, Vitalist Theatre, at Theatre Building Chicago. With their third production in five years, the Vitalists attempt the sort of physical storytelling for which Lookingglass has set the Chicago standard. And like their Lookingglass colleagues, the Vitalists are adept at divesting themselves of their humanity whenever necessary, transforming themselves into all manner of trees, bushes, boulders, and barnyard animals. In fact the most engaging moments in the show are two spot-on impersonations of chickens late in the second act. The company’s physical skills coupled with Ron Naversen’s handsome, rustic set suggest great potential.

But it’s the rare audience member who can be content with two and a half hours of simulated hens, rocks, and shrubbery. And when it comes time to turn human again in this adaptation of John Berger’s novella–the saga of an eccentric French peasant–the Vitalists flounder. Pushed to amateurish extremes by director Elizabeth Carlin Metz, the troupe’s acting is so relentlessly broad that hardly an emotion rings true. This combined with a fidgety, noisy staging turns the play into a tedious string of superficial, sketchy escapades. Further cheapening the affair are the cast’s inexplicable accents, which place the action not in rural France but on the outskirts of Rosannadannaland.