David Rush, who heads up the playwriting program at Southern Illinois University, originally titled this play “Any Day Now,” a reference to the Joan Baez album of Bob Dylan songs. Dylan’s estate asked for a title change, and got it—though you have to wonder why Rush chose a title already claimed by a George Clooney-Michelle Pfeiffer flick. To be clear, the play (in a world premiere at Stage Left) is not a romantic comedy, but a dissection of the small neuroses and the bickering that can define an academic’s life. Like David Mamet’s “Oleanna” and Brett Neveu’s recent “Harmless,” the conflict at play is the power struggle between students and their teachers. When a professor of philosophy and political propaganda goes too far one day in class—dressing up as Hitler and passing out anti-Semitic literature—he ignites the fury of a Jewish student who calls for his dismissal. Don Bender is excellent as the professor; his sonorous voice wraps around the cantankerous dialogue with a certain enjoyment, and he offers a believable rendering of a liberal fed up with political correctness. Entertaining and persuasive as the arguments may be, the play undercuts its power at every turn. Dreams and hallucinations enter the narrative and prove to be hokey distractions; and director Drew Martin’s awkward staging (with its clichéd tinkling of bells) is a shabby counterpart to Bender’s richly biting performance. Then there is the matter of the play’s resolution, which is patently ridiculous. You get it all in this production: the penetrating and the preposterous. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.