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Midnight Cowboy
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2015-16 Performances:
Miss Buncle's Book
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Midnight Cowboy
Lester's Dreadful Sweaters
Northanger Abbey
Fillet of Solo 2016
Concert Reading Series
Midnight Cowboy: Press
February 19 – April 10, 2016
Thu & Fri at 7:30pm, Sat at 4pm & 8pm, Sun at 4pm
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From Windy City Times

March 9, 2016
By Jonathan Abarbanel

A theater must be crazy or courageous to tackle Midnight Cowboy, since the 1969 film is an all-time great. Fortunately, Lifeline is courageous and not foolhardy in its solid rendering of the familiar work, with material from the 1965 novel not included in the film.

For starters, the central roles are strongly cast. Zach Livingston, as Joe Buck, combines a tender baby face with the body of a kouros. Adam Marcantoni's hunched-over Ratso Rizzo looks dirty and untouchable thanks in part to Rachel Sypniewski's costume, which makes Marcantoni appear scrawny. Jack Miggins is sniggering and dangerous as Perry, the gay dom who teaches Joe that sex is power. "Take what you want, Joe," Perry says shortly before beating and raping the bigger, stronger pseudo-cowboy. "This is what you want, Joe. Don't ever forget that," Perry tells him.

Joe's relationship with Perry isn't in the film and is an important addition to this stage version, although some of the novel's sexual material still is left out. Joe's persona has been influenced by tawdry and exploitive sexual episodes, beginning in his mid-teen years, which have left him heterosexual but essentially passive and available as trade. Hardly conscious of who or what he isóother than believing he's a great lover/studóJoe steps outside himself only when he and Ratso become a couple (although non-sexual). Only then can Joe take what he wants, in a horrific act of violence, to benefit Rizzo.

Joe and Ratso sometimes parallel Lenny and George in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men with their dreams, interdependence and exploitation. Joe also evokes Eugene O'Neill's Yank, the anti-hero of The Hairy Ape (currently in an astonishing production at Oracle Theatre), a strong, uneducated, naÔve man who's helpless outside his natural environment (coincidentally New York City being the reality-check for both).

Director Christopher M. Walsh's fluid staging utilizes Joe Schermoly's unit set, which places the action via illuminated signsóbar, cafe, movie marquee, etc. Chris Hainsworth's pithy adaptation avoids narration and is all action, retaining the novel's ironic Biblical injunctions ( newcomer Gregory Madden is bible-thumping pimp O'Daniel ). However, by spending more time on Joe's pre-New York backstory, it doesn't develop the Joe-Ratso relationship as deeply as the film, which I missed. Rather, this staging rises or falls on sympathy for Joe, the not-very-bright, uncultured, emotionally damaged man-child with a heart of gold, who realizes his failure even as a stud. Ultimately, it won me over. Ratso is lucky: he dies. The tragedy is Joe'sóa beautiful, utterly alone, wounded animal who must go on, somehow. The emotional story is about Joe Buck; the intellectual story is about sexual exploitation, which continues today in myriad ways and places, making Midnight Cowboy contemporary and ageless.

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