Judy in Disguise (With Glasses) | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)

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Judy in Disguise (With Glasses), Chemically Imbalanced Productions at Frankie J's MethaDome Theatre. The concept is overflowing with possibilities: best-selling author Judy McClure (Angela Farruggia) keynotes at a conference for writers with low self-esteem, using her own struggles (presented in flashbacks) to illustrate how one can succeed in spite of an unhappy childhood. Farruggia, also the playwright, has produced a comically lost soul with a sweet vulnerability that follows her from youth (practicing dance steps in the mirror, keeping overdeveloped boobs in check) to adulthood (contemplating suicide by an overdose of Denny's coffee). The script, however, feels awkwardly adolescent in its development. The conference speech--whose wisdom peaks at "the grass is always greener"--quickly deteriorates into a weakish link between flashbacks. Farruggia fills time with oddly disconnected anecdotes about substitute teaching and performing magic for hospitalized kids, but rushes through significant events like her mother's eulogy and the discovery that she can't have children. When saying goodbye to a lifelong imaginary friend she blurts out, "I know that you know it's only been Mom and me, no brothers and sisters, and I met you right after Dad left," treating this important revelation as a footnote instead of weaving it into the story. Adding substance to the keynote address (God knows we writers need pep talks as much as anyone) and reprioritizing the life stories could turn this into a comic gem. A 30-minute set from one of various improv groups follows each performance.

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