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Lifeline Maps "The City and The City"

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'The City and The City'
SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED
When: Through April 7
Where: Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood
Tickets: $40
Info: (773) 761-4477; www.lifelinetheatre.com
Run time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission

After watching the Lifeline Theatre production of "The City and The City," Christopher M. Walsh's stage adaptation of a quasi-political whodunit by China Mieville (the British writer now in residence at Roosevelt University), I headed to Google to look for a list of the world's currently or historically "divided cities." Turns out it is surprisingly long, extending far beyond such iconic European sites as Berlin, Germany, or Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Set in a fictional, economically depressed Central European or Balkan country, the dual cities of the show's title are Beszel, which has attracted the interest of an American technology company, and Ul Qoma, which has an active archaeological site. Operating in a jaggedly defined "no man's land" between them is The Breach, which somehow wields a strange power of its own.

As you might expect, the political forces in each city are contentious and secretive. And here's a dirty little secret: Though perceived as two different cities, it might just be that those on either side must "unsee" the other, so they could very well be one and the same. Intrigued? While the insanity of it all hints at a slew of actual geopolitical situations, Mieville's story turns out to be rather tedious.

Operating out of Beszel is Inspector Tyador Borlu (Steve Schine), a dogged man who gets loyal assistance from the expletive-spewing policewoman, Corwi (a very funny Marsha Harmon). Borlu will encounter the fully nefarious forces at work in this split city as he tries to solve the elusive case of the murder of Mahalia Geary, an American doctoral student who was studying in Ul Qoma, but appeared to be killed in Beszel.

Mahalia's parents (played by Don Bender and Millicent Hurley) are impatient. Her academic adviser (Hurley), is enigmatic. An older academic, Bowden (the excellent Patrick Blashill), whose research Mahalia discredited, is bitter, to say the least. The sinister police chief of Ul Qoma, Dhatt (the always zesty Chris Hainsworth), is surprisingly open to Borlu, but far from trustworthy. And there are edgy turns by Jonathan Helvey, Megan M. Storti, Volen Iliev and Bryson Engelen all along the way.

Director Dorothy Milne captures the mysterious and sinister movement of the city's inhabitants. But for all the effort, Mieville's story grows tedious long before Borlu manages to solve his case.

Note: This is Lifeline's 30th anniversary season, and to thank the theater for jump-starting his career many years ago, James Sie, a successful actor and voice-over artist now based in Los Angeles (and known as "the Jackie Chan impersonator") has set up a $30,000 matching grant for the company.


Note: This is Lifeline's 30th anniversary season, and to thank the theater for jump-starting his career many years ago, James Sie, a successful actor and voice-over artist now based in Los Angeles (and known as "the Jackie Chan impersonator") has set up a $30,000 matching grant for the company.

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This page contains a single entry by Hedy Weiss published on February 26, 2013 4:01 PM.

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