Murder most foul but fantastical in Middle America, grim reality for Vietnam POWs | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Murder most foul but fantastical in Middle America, grim reality for Vietnam POWs

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Nate Burger in TimeLine Theatre's 'Wasteland' (Courtesy of the theater)
Wasteland, TimeLine Theatre Company, 615 West Wellington (at Broadway), 773-281-TIME, Wednesdays-Sundays through December 30, $32-$42
William Brown's unsentimental direction makes the world premiere of Susan Felder's two-man play — one man onstage, one man a disembodied voice — a relentlessly intense experience, turning those black POW-MIA flag from an abstraction into flesh-and-blood reality. Two guys named Joe find themselves in neighboring cells (or, rather, underground tiger-cages) and come to rely on each other as the sole source of sanity in an apparently endless captivity. Nate Burger captures the visible Joe's desperation with every move, word and gesture, while Steve Haggard gives a fully realized performance with just his voice, making the invisible Joe his brother's keeper and tormentor in equal measure. Sartre's No Exit has nothing on this: you won't breathe for the entire show, or for several hours afterwards. A truly extraordinary experience. –KK
Funeral Wedding: The Alvin Play, The Strange Tree Group at Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 West Berenice in Lakeview, 773-598-8240, Wednesdays-Sundays through November 18, $25
"We don't need no stinkin' . . ." Halloween! That must surely be the cry of the Strange Tree Group, whose work is spooky at any time of year, as well as fanciful, allusive and designed to the nines. Here the Group revives Artistic Director Emily Schwartz's 2006 tale of a family wrenched apart by a remembered murder, because everyone remembers it differently. Imagine Rashomon in middle America — albeit a deeply skewed version of middle America. Scott Davis's scenic design conjures up the attic refuge of Alvin, the son who knows the truth but is determined to hide out from it. As absorbing to watch as it is impossible to describe, Funeral Wedding is equal parts creepy and spooky, mysterious and ooky, plus a heaping helping of charming.  –KK
The Burnt Park Boys, Griffin Theatre Company at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont; 773-975-8150; $25 previews (through Nov. 10) then $36; runs through Dec. 22

West Virginia has been in the news as a major snow dump, courtesy of Storm Sandy. It's also the setting for the Chicago premiere of The Burnt Part Boys, a 2006 musical about two young, rural WVA boys, circa 1962, who go on a quest. It's the sort-of thing Griffin Theatre does very well, frequently merging strong storylines and adolescent angst with sometimes-comic and sometimes-serious intent. This show—described as family-friendly—concerns the teenage sons of a coal miner killed in a mining accident, so I'd guess the tone is serious but warm-hearted. Jonathan Berry, a Griffin veteran, is the director for The Burnt Part Boys, which features a blue grass-influenced musical score. FYI: Griffin is in the process of converting a former police station in Andersonville into a permanent company home. Until then, they remain an itinerant troupe. –JA

Long Day's Journey Into Night, Eclipse Theatre Company at The Athenaeum, 2934 N. Southport; 773-935-6875; $28; runs through Dec. 9

Eugene O'Neill would not allow this autobiographical play to be published or performed in his lifetime, having ripped it out of his heart and soul in 1941. Eye-witnesses remarked that O'Neill would exit his little writing cottage with tears streaming from his eyes. Long Day's Journey Into Night is from his mature years as a man and writer. As such, it stuns with deep compassion as much as it stings with the truth of O'Neill's conflicted, guilt-ridden family circle. In New London, CT you can visit the small house facing the ocean where the play is set (now an O'Neill museum) and understand the claustrophobia of its creaking floorboards and narrow corridors. Eclipse Theatre Company has devoted its 2012 season to O'Neill and concludes with his greatest play, presented in a space as intimate as the O'Neill house itself. Eclipse artistic director Nathaniel Swift puts it all together. The play is long—four acts—and every minute is essential if you are to understand the love and pain of the four haunted Tyrones (the O'Neills). –JA

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