Liberation | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Liberation, Athenaeum Theatre Company.

This musical bears the same relationship to the feminist movement as The Pajama Game does to labor tensions and South Pacific to World War II. The story, about how the female employees of the Chelonia Corporation achieve job parity back in the 70s, is only the pretext for revealing how perky, spunky Jackie straightens out her blustery, bumbling boss, and Cosmo girl Cassandra finds happiness with blue-collar boy Ray.

The story is accompanied by Michael F. Teolis's nicely period-tinged melodies (note the bossa nova beat on the boss's solo, "They Don't Understand Me"), Richard Paschall's serviceable if ingenuous lyrics, and a few winsome dance numbers choreographed by Bethann Smukowski, who makes the most of the cast's uneven skills, as does director Martha Adrienne Peavey.

But the acoustics of the Athenaeum are such that any actors not standing at the very edge of the orchestra pit must deliver their wooden dialogue with the kind of slow overenunciation associated with theatrical fare for preschool children. Indeed, since the sitcom-ludicrous naivete of the "women's libber girls" (as they call themselves) and their chirpy-voiced leader all but cancel out the script's nostalgia potential for any but die-hard fans of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the play's potential may well lie in introducing kids to this facet of recent history. But for adult audiences in the mid-1990s, Liberation recalls a period most would rather forget.

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