It is curious that the strongest contributions to this year's Estrogen Fest come from men.
The female-themed performance event, now in its fourth year at the city-run Storefront Theater in Gallery 37, is more along the lines of a consciousness-raising seminar than a sophisticated and unexpected collection of works.
But buried amid the clichés are two short new plays by Brett Neveu and Sean Graney, who happen to be among the most buzzed-about young guys on the off-Loop scene.
Too bad you can't see both plays in a single sitting. Rather, they are divided between two program offerings, about 90 minutes in length, featuring an awkward mix of dance, poetry, theater and pseudo rock 'n' roll.
Neveu's piece, a scathing indictment of manipulating sales techniques in "The Avon Lady," is the highlight of the first program. A dryly observed look at an old-fashioned coffee klatch, it zeros in on a pair of friends (deft work from director Kimberly Senior and actors Heather Graff and Cristin McAlister) discussing the merits of flavored lip balm.
Program A's other standout is "Skadi: Norse Goddess of Skiing," a monologue from noted area solo performer Stephanie Shaw, whose amusingly droll fairy tale involves a Nordic ski goddess who chooses her future husband based on the appearance of his naked feet.
Program B, significantly stronger, features Graney's "Fear of Scars," about a pregnant woman who refuses to have a Caesarean section.
It also includes Laura McKenzie's "Funk Cloud," about a pair of super-happy office drones, and "Mixin' It Up," a spoken duet of humorous recrimination between fortysomething Marilyn Campbell, who is white, and her twentysomething biracial daughter, Maria Merrin, about their battle to tame and beautify Merrin's kinky locks.
Through June 5 at the Storefront Theater in the Gallery 37 Center for the Arts.
The Hypocrites is one of Chicago's most progressive theater companies--so why not a brand new troupe that calls itself The Narcissists?
Unfortunately, its premiere production of "Remembering the Future"--a portentously titled one-man show written by Alexander Holt and performed by company founder Ryan Colwell--is not an auspicious beginning.
A series of 10 non-related character monologues, the piece is hyper-saturated with archetypes: A stoner, a Valley girl, a psycho-necrophiliac, and so on. While some of it is engagingly written, Colwell's scenery-chewing performance is amateur-seeming and over-the-top. Under the direction of Weil Richmond, this isn't so much a play as a bland actor's showcase.
Colwell may very well have acting chops, but he doesn't show them here.
Through May 28 at the Breadline Theatre Laboratory, 1801 W. Byron Ave.; 312-409-3910.
ON THE FRINGE: NEW REVIEWS OF CHICAGO'S DIVERSE THEATER SCENE
Estrogen Fest benefits from a little testosterone in mix
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