Dollprov | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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DOLLPROV, pH Productions at Stage Left Theatre. The nonlinear logic that children use to make sense of the world can be endearing--when they're your offspring. Otherwise kids at play aren't all that exciting to watch, and neither are adults playing children, as Molly Hall and Tristan Tanner illustrate in their 30-minute long-form improv, Dollprov.

The women, who play eight-year-old best friends Maggie and Abby, are clearly comfortable as a team and have great familiarity with the toys at their disposal. This helps them make occasional amusing observations, as when they compare a kneeling teddy bear to a religious zealot, but the "excursion to hell" I witnessed was lackluster and frustratingly gender stereotyped--an Ariel doll packed more than she needed for the trek and used her long, flowing hair rather than brains or brawn to defeat the bad guy; her companion, a stuffed bearlike male critter, was macho and protective. The arrival of special guest Kevin Sciretta briefly boosted the set's energy, but soon enough the girls ignored him entirely in favor of the same dull stuff they'd been doing before. These behaviors may be age appropriate, but the show would be more interesting if the women toyed with our expectations.

Opening act Juke Box Heroes is just as uneven. Audience suggestions and randomly selected clothing from the 1980s inspire three rounds of improvised character studies set in that decade. On opening night the first was the most innovative (if anachronistic--TiVo and flat-screen TVs weren't available back then), but Jason Geis and Robyn Scott didn't sustain that energy and ingenuity over their 25 minutes.

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