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Chicks, CollaborAction Theatre Company, at Stage Left Theatre. In Grace McKeaney's depressing universe, kindergartners are well acquainted with the world's harsh imperfections. Knowing this, their teacher in this one-woman show tries to efface her own problems--which include loneliness, caring for a father gradually slipping into Alzheimer's, loneliness, and the fear that she's wasting her life--in an attempt to protect her "chicks." Yet Miss Phallon finds herself pouring out her woes to her charges under the guise of "preparing them" for a bleak future.

Two elements mar this Collabor-Action production, which features Diahanna Davidson as the harried kindergarten teacher. McKeaney's script casts the audience as Miss Phallon's pupils--requiring us to respond to her anguish with simultaneous adult awareness and the infantile ignorance McKeaney imposes (interactive dialogue is encouraged). And director Kimberly Senior's decision to add cheerful slides of adorable moppets and feel-good selections from Free to Be...You and Me likewise undercuts any potential empathy with Miss Phallon's adult frustrations. Ultimately these manipulations force us to be our instructor's persecutors instead of her comforters--a role as guilt-inducing now as it was when we really were too young to do anything about anything. --Mary Shen Barnidge

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