* The International Theatre Festival of Chicago is the only one of its kind in this country, and it continues to provide an invaluable service by importing theater that might otherwise not be seen here.
Two of the more notable events this year were: Alan Ayckbourn's Communicating Doors, presented by the playwright's own troupe, the Stephen Joseph Theatre Company from Scarborough, England; and Camel Gossip III, the latest site-specific creation from Dogtroep, an outlandish theater company from the Netherlands.
``Communicating Doors,'' directed here by the playwright and given its North American premiere, is not top-drawer Ayckbourn, but it is a typically representative work from this prolific playwright (this is his 46th play), and it is beautifully acted by his company.
A blend of farce, science fiction, and murder mystery, it takes place in a hotel room where a closet door acts as a time warp, transporting the characters back and forth between the years 1974, 1994, and 2014.
This portal comes in handy for Poopay (Adie Allen), a prostitute who finds herself fleeing for her life when she comes into contact with a client who has had two of his wives murdered. Fast, funny, and ultimately even quite moving, ``Communicating Doors'' illustrates why this playwright is perpetually popular.
Dogtroep has performed everywhere from the Berlin Wall to the Olympics. Making their United States premiere in Chicago, they took over the Skyline Stage. The handsome new theater located on the Navy Pier was a fitting place for their newest creation, a lavish and technically audacious bit of surrealism. The production involves hundreds of gallons of water, huge metal structures, bicycle ramps, roving musicians, and huge tentacles that snake their way into the audience.
The hour-long extravaganza had little coherence, but it was an amazing theatrical spectacle. Although not exactly decorous, Dogtroep does provide an experience unlike anything you've ever seen. They'll be playing in Chicago through Sunday, June 19.