(Hedy Weiss’s article appeared in the Chicago Sun-Time, 1/18.)
“What of the Night?,” Maria Irene Fornes’ raw, blistering tale of love, loss, betrayal, sacrifice, isolation, violence, poverty, the currency of sex, and the power of language, is not for the meek.
The Cuban-American playwright (now 86, and a victim of Alzheimer’s for many years), was a major figure on the Off Off Broadway scene from the 1960s to the early 1990s. During that time she wrote more than 40 plays, many of them experimental in form, of which only a handful are produced on any regular basis. Watching the brave, immensely ambitious and profoundly disturbing revival of “What of the Night?” — a rarely seen 1989 work now receiving a riveting co-production by Cor Theatre and Stage Left Theatre — you understand just how difficult it can be to perform this weave of four interconnected one-act plays titled “Nadine,” “Springtime,” “Lust” and “Hunger.”
Not only does its nearly three-hour chain of storytelling demand actors willing to bare their souls, conjure an intense sense of intimacy, and suggest deep wells of pain. But they also must be able to play with words that are at once poetic and oddly offbeat, and strung together in the manner of a masterful writer for whom English will always be marked by signs that it is a second language. (A simple riff on the word “impeccable” might just be one of the play’s most beguiling moments.) Fornes’ play, boldly directed and skillfully directed by Carlos Murillo, is one of those pieces that leave you wondering how its cast of 11 actors can emotionally gear up to repeat their performances for weeks on end.