McManic Productions, Chicago Fringe Festival, at the Organic Theater.
A childhood in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and a mother who emulates Blanche DuBois would not seem a very promising start in life, but Laura McGhee's semiautobiographical heroine, Joy DeVille, is nonetheless determined to find meaning in her existence.
After Joy's education is abruptly curtailed by her mother's seduction of the principal, the young pilgrim sets forth for Toronto, where she's mugged for the first of many times, then taken in by a convent but soon after rejected as a bride of Christ. A private conversation with Jesus offers no more enlightenment: "Are you coming back again?" she asks, to which he replies, "Would you?" A job as a go-go dancer called "the Sniper" lasts until an overexcited customer ("Invade me, baby--I'm Grenada!") drops dead during her act and she's sent to prison. There she meets Snow, a radical militant lesbian feminist, and the two of them live in blissful/smothering togetherness until Joy tires of being a femme housewife drone and decamps for San Francisco--a prefab theme park where the brownies not only contain no hashish, they don't even have any real chocolate. It's here, however, that an immigrant pickpocket provides Joy with the wisdom she seeks.
McGhee and Frank McAnulty, who hail from Toronto, play all the characters in this 70-minute picaresque, which may explain why they're a trifle uncertain of their material--or perhaps the uncertainty reflects a script still in development or the effects of overtaxed air-conditioning on a sweltering afternoon. But once they find the confidence to take the risks demanded by their often witty narrative, Joyride should prove a genially satiric ride.