First Lady Suite | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Presidents' wives are whining, inconsequential ninnies with few thoughts of their own in Michael John LaChiusa's chamber opera, now receiving a stultifying staging by Shifra Wench. In these fanciful vignettes, Mamie Eisenhower (the humorous Elizabeth Haley) travels to Little Rock, Arkansas, during the 1957 school-integration crisis, then time-travels to Algiers to catch Ike in the middle of an affair; the secretaries of Jack and Jackie Kennedy fuss over their jobs as they fly to a rendezvous with fate in Dallas; and, in the strongest scene, Eleanor Roosevelt flirts with Amelia Earhart while Roosevelt's lover, Lorena "Hick" Hickok (a gloriously strong Jenny Fitts Reynolds), watches in frustration. This show isn't about the first ladies, really--it's about the women surrounding them. Unfortunately, except for Roosevelt's lover, the women around them aren't fleshed out enough for us to care. Through 5/29: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3:30 PM. Bailiwick Repertory, Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 W. Belmont, 773-883-1090. $25-$30.

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