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Shattered Globe’s “Flood” goes underwater

In Mashuq Mushtaq Deen’s brutal drama “Flood,” we meet a sad, retired couple. He, Darren, spends his time sitting behind his desk building some sort of wooden model and lamenting the betrayal of his adult children. She, Edith, bemoans her empty nest while this stereotypical couple whines, complains, and engages in the kind of meaningless nonsense associated with the theater of the absurd.

I’m reluctant to call games ageist. Playwrights should be free to use symbols and metaphors rather than recognizable people, and being of a certain age does not exempt you from parody or criticism. But when I looked around the theater at the loyal, mostly elderly Shattered Globe audience on opening night, I saw a lot of smiles that didn’t seem to move at all. The two leads of the series, HB Ward and Linda Reiter, are outstanding artists whose presence enriches every scenario, but these characters are frankly on the verge of aggression. They are certainly written with little truth, despite the actors’ best efforts. But every time they talk about their children, books fall off the shelves.

This is because Deen has written an environmentalist allegory with absurd foundations. A few minutes later we meet the couple’s insured children, each talking into tin telephones. Darren Junior (Carl Collins) and Edith Junior (Sarah Patin) battle rising waters and seek help from a generation that Deen clearly blames for the climate crisis. But older parents are too lost in narcissism to help their children. This is the point emphasized by the playwright; but it also clocks in at 90 minutes, which feels like twice as long.

Since the elders live in a multi-story building (unlike their already submerged children), you can pretty quickly guess where this plot is going. And we bet you’ll figure out what model Darren is building long before the big reveal.

All in all, despite some great projections from Smooch Medina, this is a blatant and boring show. It doesn’t work (at least for me) because Deen tries to mix a non-didactic style (absurdism) with the most unsubtle moralism. I think he wants this to be a comedy, but there are very few laughs in this staging by director Kenneth Prestininzi.

Know that you can certainly worry about climate change and dislike this simple play, an odd choice for this very distinguished Chicago theater company.

Theater Cycle

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Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.

cjones5@chicagotribune.com

Review: “Flood” (1 star)

When: until March 9

Where: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave.

Working time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Tickets: $15-$40 at 773-770-0333 and sgtheatre.org

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