Entertainment » Theatre

Dr. Egg and the Man with No Ear

by Jack Hafferkamp
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Sep 13, 2008
Adam Shalzi as Dr. Egg and Dominic Greene as the Narrator
Adam Shalzi as Dr. Egg and Dominic Greene as the Narrator  (Source:Sean Williams)

"Engineering Wonder" is what it says right there on the outside wall of Redmoon Theater's building, tucked away on the 1400 block of W. Hubbard. And if any theater company in Chicago is known for it concept-stretching, inventive spectacles, it's probably Redmoon.

I confess to having seen only one previous production, so I am maybe not the best person to say if the new show, Dr. Egg and the Man with No Ear meets Redmoon's own high standards. All I know is I'm very glad to have seen it; it's a great show.

Animated video, puppetry, live actors and soundscape make for a one-hour piece that is a completely charming, winning, cautionary Frankenstein tale. It's about a daughter's love gone terribly wrong though genetic engineering run amok. And it's told so inventively that you can't help but be caught up by the sleight of hand that makes it work as a fable.

It helps a lot that the live actors make fabulous, physical cartoon characters. The only speaking part belongs to immigrant Brit actor Dominic Green as the Narrator. In bald mask he becomes a sinuous storyteller with a honeyed voice; slightly fey, slightly sinister, slightly moralizer.

And in this case, the focus is a wary fable about the potential problems that come with "stem cell biology, tissue culturing, cloning and... transplanting organs from other species."

Brandon Boler, Rebecca Mauldin and Adam Shalzi as the father, the daughter and Dr. Egg have the skills to make themselves into endearing life-sized puppets, acting out the narrator's sad tale. They are, all three, great physical actors. And hat's off to the pupeteers who deftly move around the minatures of the actors. The other major presence is Lara Golan's most excellent soundscape, which adds mood, depth and emphasis to the visuals.

Director Jessica Wilson has staged Dr. Egg and the Man with No Ear three times before, starting at the Sydney Opera House in 2007. Recipient of an Australia Council Professional Development grant to travel the U.S. and Europe, she specializes in "non-text based theater."

And in this case, the focus is a fable about the potential problems that come with "stem cell biology, tissue culturing, cloning and... transplanting organs from other species." As Wilson writes in the program: "We have created a hypothetical scenario that poses a number of questions: how far are we prepared to go to get the things we desire; and who is ultimately responsible for our 'creations' once they exist?"

Whether you consider Wilson's wonderings to be thoughtful or reactionary, you'll have no problem enjoying how she has engineered the wonder in telling her version of one potential future for genetic engineering. This a show that works equally well for adults and older children.

Dr. Egg and the Man with No Ear plays at Redmoon Theater, 1463 W. Hubbard St. through Oct. 19: Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. Also Saturday and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15-35 for adults and $15 for children 13 and under: www.redmoon.org or 312-850-8440.

Jack Hafferkamp covers Chicago


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