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My Grandma's a Fat Whore in Jersey

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My Grandma's a Fat Whore in Jersey, WNEP Theater Foundation, at Bailiwick Repertory. Even in an improv stronghold like Chicago, it's rare to see a small cast attempt long-form improvisation, despite a few recent three-person shows like Glitterball and the jazz-inspired Trio. The fact is, creating and sustaining a cohesive piece for upwards of an hour is a monumental challenge for a group of ten seasoned improvisers, let alone two or three. With only two players, My Grandma's a Fat Whore in Jersey has no safety net.

As demonstrated by the surrealistic mime sequences that frame the show's three improvised segments, Jen Ellison and Matt Kaye are gifted physical comedians. And they have the book smarts and the chemistry to make a show like this work. But without at least one more improviser to jump in and rescue sinking scenes or to offset the pair's occasional loss of energy, it takes about five minutes for the show to come to a grinding halt.

To be fair, Ellison and Kaye do a good job of exploiting silence--a quality rarely found in Chicago improv. With more modesty and a less scattershot approach, My Grandma's a Fat Whore in Jersey might meet its ambitious goals. Until then, however, its flashes of brilliance will be buried under an avalanche of dead weight.

--Nick Green

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