What of the Night?, Inequity Theatrical Collaboration, at Chicago Actors Studio. Playwright Maria Irene Fornes made her mark on the off-Broadway circuit in the 60s and 70s striving to find truth in unaffected, not overly dramatic writing. But her greatest triumphs have come in subsequent decades, as she’s begun to toy with theatrical artifice as a means of reaching new insights. In What of the Night?, a collection of four related plays, she dives headfirst into magic realism, placing naturalistic dialogue in increasingly bizarre contexts, including a Bunuel-inspired dream sequence, a seemingly straightforward dialogue between two women presided over by an omniscient narrator, and a futuristic nightmare realm.
True to the Biblical passage from which the title is borrowed, hope in each of these plays springs from absolute numbness. And perhaps the only strike against Inequity Theatrical Collaboration’s debut production is that it hasn’t quite communicated that sense of cultural displacement. The characters in Fornes’s feminist and politically driven works are often portrayed as confident and self-assured, but the Dust Bowl itinerants and postapocalyptic survivors here are brittle, fragile creatures–and director Lewis Lain and his cast ought to bring out those frailties in their otherwise astute performances.
Still, the troupe has demonstrated its bravery by producing this complex, cryptic word puzzle. And its underlying subject–the essence of desire–is suitable for a hungry new troupe.