Big Blonde, The Fat Girl, and Erosion | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Big Blonde, The Fat Girl, and Erosion

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BIG BLONDE, THE FAT GIRL, and EROSION, Studio 108, at Chopin Theatre. If ever there were a show to walk in late on, it's this one. In fact, I urge you to miss the first piece in this evening of loosely connected plays.

Erosion, written and directed by Greg Nagan, is an intellectually confused and confusing audio work. All of the actors are prerecorded, their voices played back over the theater's sound system accompanied by minimal visuals--curtains, a bare stage, a single light that grows in intensity. It's a bit of postmodern radio fiction in the style of Joe Frank, but Nagan is no Frank. The tale he presents tries to be hip and mysterious; he even cuts between two unrelated story lines. In one a wistful woman walks along the beach; in the other a lout recounts how his female boss upbraided him for calling his Palm Springs vacation a trip to "pussy heaven." In each unfocused story Nagan achieves blunt obviousness: the clearly lonely woman notes how sexual the landscape looks; the thick-necked man doesn't get what his boss is complaining about.

The Fat Girl is considerably better. Based on a short story by Marie Luise Kaschnitz, it concerns an adult writer's encounter with a painfully shy, clumsy girl. The piece has been intelligently adapted (in chamber-theater style) and directed by Shirley Anderson, and is sensitively brought to life by Allison Cain (the story's narrator) and Heather Donaldson (the girl). The story is a fine, mildly thought-provoking, ever so slightly moving piece of fiction that also works as a palate cleanser.

Big Blonde is a revival of Anderson's popular fringe hit of three years ago. Adapted from a short story by Dorothy Parker, it gives Anderson plenty of room to show what a fine character actress she is--her rich, multilayered portrayal of the title character is inspired. Not only does she become Hazel Morse body, accent, and soul, but she continues transforming herself, becoming cheaper, coarser, and more pathetic as Morse descends from petty adulteress to party girl to glorified prostitute to sad-sack boozer--all without sacrificing the humor or heart in Parker's story. Even when Morse smacks rock bottom, Anderson mixes the pathos and pithy comebacks with Parker-esque abandon.

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