The Strawdog Theatre’s production of Irish playwright Brian Friel’s Chekovian homage, “The Aristocrats, ” is a sad, sharp portrait of a family in decline. The wealthy, mis-educated O’Donnells reunite for the wedding of daughter Claire (the poignant Shannon Hoag) and chronicle the family’s storied past for researcher Tom (a solid Tom Hickey). The show is full of breathtaking performances: John Henry Roberts is brilliant as the manic Casimir, who uses his family’s legend as a shield against its reality; Michael Dailey shines as Eamon, the in-law ideologue who is both repelled by and attracted to the O’Donnells’ gilded history; Jennifer Avery and Anita Deely turn in strong performances as sisters who dilute their pain with booze and work. Rick Snyder’s astute direction keeps the actors from wallowing in the story’s melancholia and presents a bittersweet snapshot of a family’s damaged yet hopeful dynamic. (Lisa Buscani)
At the Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway, (773)525-6797. This production is now closed.