Handcuffs is the kind of theatre experience that seldom comes along. Anyone who is passionate about theatre as a medium really should take the time to witness this production. I can't guarantee how a theatrical enthusiast will apprehend this piece, but anyone who claims to be contextual in theatrical history, or daring in theatrical taste has no business missing something like this. It is a rare bird, and for that it must be seen.
It is the sort of emmersive application to storytelling that is too infrequent in my opinion. There is no doubt that the script as written is challenging to both actor and audience (I was challenged). Penned in 1969, it is emblematic of a certain type of theatre, certain approach and specific period of theatrical endeavor that is very remote from much of today's ways. It is this challenge and this risk that make it essential viewing.
A production like this can be many things. In one way, it acts as a history/cultural lesson. Because (I would argue) much of it reflects a time in history when much of performance was synonymous to protest, when performance was perceived and accepted as a more direct method of critic of our world, when people really thought they were changing this globe into something else, a time when more people went to the theater to see this sort of thing. The performance remains true to Arrabal from the tonality, the adherence to non-specificity regarding narrative structures (what is dream what is real) and the question of are these actors always embodying a single character going through multiple transformations of being, or is this mere double casting. A tall order theatrically, but executed very close to the letter of the author's intent.
A production like this can be a catalyst. It can galvanize its audience's position on notions of "experimentation" in theatre, notions of characterization. It can question audience's ability to witness artifice, scatological representation, sexual taboo, even human flesh.
It may be that I haven't done a very good job of "selling" this show. Perhaps if I had more time to think on it, to figure out a way to mold my words so that I amplified the provocation and titillation without speaking to the tension and anxiety... If I could figure out a way to convince you it is an evening of entertainment, I would. The truth is that this piece is something else. Something special, something compelling, something that at moments, yes, is even uncomfortable to watch. But, we need more folks seeing and doing this sort of work in Chicago Theater. For all this piece is, it is exciting to me that people still strive to make this kind of theatre. I want more of this sort of ensemble, more of this sort of company. I want us to embrace as a city, not only our legacy toward sketch and humor, but also our legacies of risk, our legacies of daring... And for that I urge you to embrace this production and to embrace this company. I applaud Right Brain Project for its craft, its commitment, and its skill.