Tuesday October 23 8:34 am

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

"The Days Are Shorter" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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53-year-old Julia (Pat Parks) is definitely enduring a mid-life crisis. Hearing random voices that jolt her out of bed, she hasn't had a restful night's sleep in weeks. Complicating matters is the fact that she is still living with her ex, Pax (Gay Glenn), a successful lawyer five years older than Julia, in a cramped bedroom in the home that Pax owns. Currently unemployed and behind in her rent payments, Julia is drifting aimlessly and fighting boredom. She passes the time by sneaking her new girlfriend Treat (Kendra Verhage) into her room for random and increasingly meaningless sex.

Treat is a spunky 25-year-old who is studying to be a professional magician. With no job prospects in sight Julia decides to work for an escort service to make some quick and easy cash. She soon is assigned a client, Ada (Joan McGrath), an academic professional in her mid-70's. At the conclusion of their evening together at a black tie gala event, Julia makes sure that Ada gets home safely and the two women sit on a bench outside of Ada's home (even though it is December and quite cold outside) and have a heartfelt conversation about their past relationships. Julia tells Ada about Treat but also voices her concern that she may be too young for her.

Julia and Ada seem to have more of an emotional connection but soon Julia, due to her exhaustion and the voices in her head, says something to offend Ada and the date comes to an abrupt end. Upon returning to her room at Pax's, Julia has her suspicions that Treat's budding friendship with a former high school acquaintance is much more than just a simple friendship and they have a quarrel. Also, Pax insists that Julia move out of the house. All of these scenes unfold exclusively from Julia's point of view and she interacts with just one of the other three characters in every scene. All of the characters come together in the final, surreal scene which is set in a treehouse in the backyard of Treat's childhood home.

Director Iris Sowlat has done a decent job of presenting this expansive story on the very tight and confined stage of The Buena. Parks is very credible as the severely fatigued Julia, especially when she reaches her eleventh day without any sleep, a marker she claims where insanity begins to take over. Verhage is also plucky as Treat, just don't make the mistake of calling her magic acts "tricks." She performs some well-executed sleight of hand, thanks to the coaching of Neil Tobin, who is credited as the Magic Consultant.

"The Days Are Shorter" is a candid observation of the inter-generational connections between a group of women. If the days are truly shorter then obviously the nights are longer. Nights spent trying, vainly, to get lost in the intoxication of slumber. Upon the slightly perplexing denouement you will be forced to come to your own conclusion. Was this all just a dream -- a product of Julia's long winter's nap -- or merely a trippy hallucination brought on by acute sleep deprivation? Or, as a clever nod to the magical element that runs throughout the narrative, is it a deftly conceived conjuror's illusion? You be the judge.

“The Days Are Shorter” runs through June 3rd in the Buena, Pride Arts Center, 4147 N. Broadway, Chicago. Street parking is hard to find in this neighborhood. The best option is a metered lot at Belle Plaine and Clarendon (about 2 ½ blocks from the Pride Center). Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm; and Sunday at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $25. FYI (866) 811-411, (773) 857-0222 or www.pridefilmsandplays.com.