If you thought Henry Darger’s artwork was epic, wait until you see Dog & Pony Theatre Co.’s world-première play As Told by the Vivian Girls. Darger, the late Chicago outsider artist and janitor by trade, left behind a near-endless tome filled with obsessively detailed etchings of little-girl warriors, many of them hermaphrodites, battling the forces of evil. Scholars continue to debate Darger’s motives—he spent his youth in orphanages, where he may have been abused—but the Vivian Girls’ creator and codirector, Devon de Mayo, isn’t making any judgments. For the production, she drafted a flow chart of characters, hired a choreographer and a fight specialist, and persuaded the Chicago Park District to open its cavernous Theater on the Lake off-season—all of which she hopes will create “a living embodiment” of Darger’s art. The project is nearly as ambitious, and off kilter, as the artwork that inspired it: Audience members are required to wear masks and roam a theatre that, in a bizarre twist, once served as a children’s sanatorium. Previews Apr 30-May 2; regular run thru May 25. Wed-Sun at 7:30. $20. Theater on the Lake, Fullerton Pkwy and Lake Shore Dr. 773-360-7933.
Photograph: Courtesy of Cherry Sky films