Pura Vida, Live Bait Theater. Chicago writer Paul Peditto spent the last year of the economic boom–1999–in Costa Rica living off his stock market earnings and having lots and lots of sex, most of it paid for. During his year of debauchery the fortysomething playwright (best known for his adaptations of Nelson Algren’s Never Come Morning and Ben Hecht’s 1,001 Afternoons in Chicago) kept copious notes.
The resulting show–a 90-minute monologue, performed by Eric Ziegenhagen and directed by Beau O’Reilly–is a fascinating, frustrating, paradoxical work that’s sometimes humorous and restrained, sometimes self-indulgent and in need of editing. The piece starts out with a promise of the exotic and erotic, heightened by a set that includes dozens of naked Barbie dolls hanging from the ceiling. But it soon becomes clear that Peditto is far too interested in his personal journey to focus long on any of his partners. Erotic literature demands the presence of a strongly desired other, but in Peditto’s Costa Rica, men with money in their pockets have their sexual needs fulfilled too quickly to ever feel desire.
At least Peditto never indulges in easy moralizing–though it’s clear that the “pure life” is kind of lonely, spiritually empty, and stupid. Ziegenhagen performs with just the right degree of self-deprecating irony, aided no doubt by O’Reilly, himself a master at ironic self-deprecation.