Nicole Wiesner in "The Balcony" at Trap Door Theatre
Updated: October 10, 2013 6:08AM
If you were writing ad copy for “The Balcony,” this might be an accurate teaser: Here is a play about revolution and illusion that unfolds in an upscale brothel. It is the work of Jean Genet (1916-1986), the French novelist, poet and playwright who also happened to be a petty thief, gay prostitute, vagabond, convict, political activist and acquaintance of Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso. He was a man who enjoyed mixing high and low, and reveled in subversive role-playing.
Those familiar with Chicago’s Trap Door Theatre, which has opened its 20th anniversary season with “The Balcony,” will sense that this is a play custom-made for its aesthetic. As director Max Truax explains: “We’re setting this production where and when it is — at Trap Door Theatre, in Chicago, in the United States — because the story is an allegory for all societies everywhere.”
“Driving the play is the looming presence of a revolution,” said Truax. “Only later is that revolution revealed to be part of an enormous masquerade orchestrated to satisfy the Chief of Police’s desire for narcissistic immortality. Every revolution ultimately ends in failure, because it simply perpetuates an endless cycle. As a revolutionary speaking about the results of the revolution says near the end of the play: ‘And outside, in what you call life, everything has crashed. No truth was possible.’ ”
“The Balcony” runs through Oct. 12 at Trap Door, 1655 W. Cortland.