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Valparaiso 

Novelist Don DeLillo's second full-length play

Wednesday, Apr 4 2001
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Novelist Don DeLillo's second full-length play (after The Day Room) features Michael, an industry analyst, who flies by accident to Valparaiso, Chile. The American press gets ahold of his story, and Michael makes the round of talk shows as the "business traveler who bumbled his way into an epic adventure," having skipped from Valparaiso, Indiana, to Valparaiso, Florida, before finding himself -- whoops! -- on a plane to South America. The play shows his interview tour and gradually fills in details of the trip. DeLillo is less interested in Michael's journey than in the labyrinth of the American System, from its airport lines and computer grids to the media's gargantuan appetite for trivia. Soon we learn that maybe Michael was trying to escape his marriage and mediocre job; a talk show hostess even suggests on air that his pregnant wife is carrying someone else's kid. This could all be very funny if it were well paced or well performed, but most of the cast seems unsettled in the script. The one powerfully acted scene has Michael (Chris Phillips) alone in a studio, delivering an intense speech into a microphone. He rises to eloquence about his wife, about solitude, about his view of the snow-capped Andes from the plane -- and the whole thing is just a sound check. Too bad the rest of the play feels like just a rehearsal.

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