For all its radical rejection of theatrical conventions, “Request Programme,” currently at Trapdoor Theatre, explores territory with which Arthur Miller would have been comfortable. Franz Xaver Kroetz’s play (originally produced in 1973 as “Wunschkonzert”) depicts an evening in the life of a lonely woman, driven ultimately to suicide by the emptiness of her routine. The twist is that Kroetz’s Miss Rasch interacts with no one but a voice on the radio: the play’s action consists of her silently and methodically preparing dinner, using the toilet, working on needlepoint and swallowing an overdose of pills. Deadly as this might sound, with no dialogue and precious little plot, “Request Programme” works primarily because Kroetz appreciates the voyeuristic impulse at work in the theater. Our access to the most private, most banal moments of a life exerts a primal fascination. The play also cannily juxtaposes its own off-putting difficulty with the seductive intimacy of the radio program that only offers Miss Rasch the hollow promise of human contact. Kroetz’s ultra-realism is at a remove from the highly expressionistic drama that is director Beata Pilch’s specialty. The strain shows particularly in the piece’s languid pace; while Kroetz’s notes predict a running time of about an hour, this production clocks in at over ninety minutes. But Carolyn Shoemaker invests Rasch with an intriguing blend of stolidity and anxiety, performing this challenging role without excessive self-consciousness. “Request Programme” is unlike anything else on Chicago’s stages, and manages to cut deeper than most. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.