The Wooster Group

Next week Chicago will get a rare chance to catch the work of artists who’ve shaped the vocabulary of avant-garde performance. Wooster Group founder Elizabeth LeCompte and her colleagues have made their mark by transforming classic stories into fragmented collages using dance and video and creating disjointed ritualistic relationships among the actors, their characters, and the audience. Since 1975 they’ve been deconstructing works by the likes of Flaubert, O’Neill, Miller, and Wilder, but even people who don’t recognize the Wooster Group by name will know the actors and directors who’ve worked there, among them Willem Dafoe and Spalding Gray. House/Lights, the group’s most recent show, creates a new landscape out of Gertrude Stein’s Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights, a wickedly tongue-in-cheek modernist revision of the Faust story. The Wooster Group blends Stein’s template with the 60s campy soft-core S-M film Olga’s House of Shame, and I can’t wait to see what they do with a lesbian B movie and Stein’s voluptuous lunatic fantasias on language, identity, and the human soul. I was amazed by Fish Story, the troupe’s Kabuki-style mind-fucked version of Three Sisters. Aided by virtuoso video work, this comic revision of Chekhov’s tragedy was like a waking dream, as moments of clarity dissolved into stark, seemingly meaningless images or phrases, which later made a kind of inexplicable intuitive sense. Museum of Contemporary Art, theater, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010. Opens Wednesday, November 12, 7:30 PM. Through November 16: Thursday, 7:30 PM; Saturday, 8 and 10 PM; Sunday, 3 PM. $22. –Carol Burbank

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Mary Gearhart.