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‘Hellcab’ fares well in 20th anniversary production

“Hellcab” Profiles Theatre features Alex Fisher (from left) Eric J. Ciak KonstantKhrustov. | PHOTO BY MICHAEL BROSILOW

“Hellcab” at Profiles Theatre features Alex Fisher (from left), Eric J. Ciak and Konstantin Khrustov. | PHOTO BY MICHAEL BROSILOW

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When: Through Dec. 23

Where: Profiles Theatre, 4139 N. Broadway

Tickets: $30-$40

Info: (773)549-1815;

Updated: December 19, 2012 11:26AM

It is the sort of face-freezing night before Christmas in Chicago when a taxi driver has to breathe on his car lock to insert his key.

But for the unnamed driver in Will Kern’s “Hellcab” (played by Konstantin Khrustov, whose character’s roots in St. Petersburg, Russia, Rockford, Ill., and now Chicago might be quasi-autobiographical), the cold is the least of it. For as he picks up his crazy, loutish, terrifying and damaged customers during a long shift, he could well be forgiven for thinking he has veered into Satansville.

Kern’s 90-minute drive on Chicago’s wild side first came to the stage of (the now defunct) Famous Door Theatre in 1992, became one of the longest running shows in the city’s history, and had productions staged around the globe. Now, Profiles Theatre has mounted a 20th anniversary revival with a blockbuster cast of 34 (rather than the initial six), so each customer gets a unique portrayal. (The storefront’s backstage must be quite a show, too.)

Director Darrell W. Cox has kept the time period amorphous, with the Driver in a huge, retro, turquoise Ford (far more theatrical than today’s hybrid) that would look most at home in Havana. As for the customers, they are a multi-culti cross-section of wackos, losers, louts, snobs and victims. Their pathologies are varied, but Cox allows them to be just a little too relentlessly shrill.

So just who hails the cab of this smart, good-looking, financially strapped young immigrant cabbie who travels from the South Side to Rush Street and Lincoln Park? They include a couple in reindeer headwear who engage in some pretty heavy duty sex; a middle-aged lawyer who bares her cleavage with the hope of getting lucky; an angry guy headed to settle the score with a used car dealer; any number of heavily inebriated singles and embattled couples; two obnoxious New York sports fans; a scummy young businessman clearly using a sweet local waitress; a hooded guy who is sure that space exploration will save the U.S.; a pretty young woman who has just been raped; a scary man who wants an alley stop; an accordion player in folkloric dress whose Christmas carols seem beside the point; and a decent architect who shares stories about his mom.

Krhustov’s wonderfully expressive face and droll responses suggest his sense of helplessness, hopelessness, disgust and terror in the face of so many human specimens. By the end of the night he has truly driven around the nine circles of hell.

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