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Review: The Birthday Party/Steppenwolf Theatre | Newcity Stage
Photo: Michael Brosilow "Why did the chicken cross the road?" It's a simple enough question and there are any number of suitable punchlines. But when this trivial setup-line is asked, needled, demanded three times in a row in a play by Harold Pinter, it can begin to resemble a form of psychological torture. We may not know why it's being asked or what the proper response should be, but we know that we feel uneasy. Or we should. Pinter's second play, first performed in 1958 to a rather chilly critical reaction, deliberately leaves the audience with a multitude of unanswered questions. Characters contradict each other, are referred to by varying names and conversations rarely consist of straightforward dialogue. By the end of this turbulent three-act show (Steppenwolf's production is two hours and twenty minutes with two intermissions), it's normal to feel disturbed and more than a little confused. But what this particular birthday party is missing is a deep-seated sense of dread. In a