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ACT II: A second look at area stages — ‘River,’ ‘Reverb’ solid efforts

The relationship between Dorian (Peter Oyloe) June (Mary Williamson) goes beyond sadomasochistic “Reverb.”

The relationship between Dorian (Peter Oyloe) and June (Mary Williamson) goes beyond sadomasochistic in “Reverb.”

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Updated: June 9, 2013 2:39AM

Here are two wildly different shows — one awash in dark-edged Americana-style poetry and song, and one, exceptionally brutal, that goes beyond the pale in its depiction of rage:

“Spoon River Anthology” (through June 16 at Provision Theater, 1001 W. Roosevelt): The characters in Edgar Lee Masters’ 1915 classic — a collection of free-form poems woven into a play — dwell in the cemetery of the fictional Illinois town of the work’s title (a veiled version of Lewiston, Ill., where Masters spent his high school years). They are a mostly restless, troubled bunch — tormented by love (unrequited, betrayed, lost, found), sent to their death (by way of sickness, suicide, murder, war), experienced in failure, disappointment, loneliness, personal tragedy, crises of faith. And they have come back to life to explain their fates.

The Provision production, adapted and directed by Timothy Gregory (with original music and lyrics by Alaric Jans, Michael Mahler, Gary Fry, Victoria Blade and Gregory), features a skilled cast of 10, plus violinist Alyssa Tong. It begins a bit slowly but gathers steam as it goes, and as one character after another reveals his or her story you realize that a great deal more than might be expected went on in this prairie town. (Visit

“Reverb” (through June 23 at Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr): Leslye Headland is best known for her 2012 film, “Bachelorette,” adapted from one of the plays (about gluttony) in her Seven Deadly Sins cycle. “Reverb” is about the sin of rage, and it comes just about as close to being a “snuff drama” as I ever hope to witness.

In its portrait of the relationship between two horribly damaged people — a talented rock ‘n’ roll songwriter, Dorian (Peter Oyloe, this year’s non-Equity Jeff Award winner for his portrayal of Hank Williams), and his girlfriend, June (Mary Williamson) — it moves light years beyond any definition of the dysfunctional or even the sado-masochistic. I’ve seen boxing matches more humane than the bashing (and a great deal more) that goes on in this play, which has been directed by Jonathan Berry (maestro of dark drama) on Redtwist’s tiny you-are-there stage.

All that said, the acting by both Oyloe and Williamson is as stunning as it is fearsome. And there is a fabulously funny turn by Ashley Neal as a powerful music blogger, plus solid work by Brittany Burch and Nick Vidal. But really, you do have to ask: Will this play add anything to your life, or will it just poison your soul? you’ve been warned. (Visit

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