The French playwright Jean-Luc Lagarce died at the age of 38 in 1995—seven years after learning he was HIV-positive. Lagarce wasn’t thrilled with the idea of being identified as AIDS writer, but knowledge of an early death had to be a motivating factor behind “It’s Only the End of the World,” currently in a compelling, if not fully successful, production from TUTA at the Chopin. Our narrator (the playwright?) is a young guy of 34—and he says he will be dead within a year. With mortality on the brain, he takes a visit back to the homestead to see a family he has avoided much of his adult life. Conversations within the group go like this: one person talks in run-on sentences, while the others sit mute, listening politely to all the invective and jibber-jabber. TUTA last tackled Lagarce back in 2004 with a daffy-riveting take on “Rules for Good Manners in the Modern World.” This time, the material is no less jumbled—a combination of wordy declarations and non-sequitur tonal changes, and then quite suddenly, dancing! (The tune, Nino Ferrer’s swingy, groovy “Les Cornichons” is worth tracking down.) The production, under the direction of Zeljko Djukic, is both arch and very, very real. If this isn’t how people actually talk, it’s certainly the way they think. Who among us feels loved enough—or loved in the right ways? The production is extremely sedentary—the characters sit and talk; then move to another part of the stage, and sit and talk—but in certain key scenes John Dalton’s set design creates the illusion that you are outside the house looking in, as if stopped on the sidewalk on a dark night, watching a family through a picture window. There is also a killer performance here from Andy Hager, as the narrator’s disgruntled younger brother. He is bored, bleary-eyed and sour-faced, and there is something very French in that. His demeanor, though, is pure Americana. He hurls a list of indictments at the family that might as well be bitch-slaps. And then he stomps off, yelling for his sister: “SuzAAANNE!” That one-word exclamation says more about the guy than any long-winded monologue—he is a child trapped in the life of a grown man. (Nina Metz)
At the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, (773)278-1500. This production is now closed.