(Nina Metz's article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 3/14.)

Size isn't everything, and if you can get your mind out of the gutter for a moment we can talk about why tiny budgets are not necessarily a drawback in the theater. Indeed, in the case of Brandon Ogborn's "TomKat Project," I would argue it is precisely a lack of money that makes the show so good. Throw too many bells and whistles at this thing and it would lose all of its zingy, small-scale, stripped-down charm.

Just how far can a clever director go working with little more than a trenchant script and a nimble ensemble? Look no further than the Playground Theater, where Elly Green has put together a clean, sharp work that reveals a deeply entertaining heart beating somewhere beyond its tawdry, gossipy origins. In the realm of fringe theater, this show is a near-perfect achievement.

Seriously funny but never a joke, Ogborn's script digs into the business of celebrity myth-making with an almost academic zeal. Why the collective fascination with the loony courtship and marriage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and their even loonier divorce? Ogborn may not have answers, but that doesn't make his questions any less interesting. It is as if Susan Sontag were suddenly returned from the grave, only to find herself stuck with nothing to read but back issues of Us Weekly.


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