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Little House on the Parody

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Little House on the Parody, Single Box Turn Productions, at Theatre Building Chicago. The 1970s and '80s TV show Little House on the Prairie, based on the autobiographical books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, emphasized saintliness. Almost everyone was good, but especially the almost Christlike father (here played by Max Stewart) and earnest, bucktoothed Laura (Becky Eldridge). The exceptions were bratty Nellie Oleson (Amy Petersen) and her mother, Harriet (David Silberman, in perfectly pitched drag)--and they were very, very bad.

Eldridge and Petersen's gentle spoof, a musical remounted after its initial run last summer, stretches this dichotomy to an extreme. Though the characters endure a blizzard, a plague of grasshoppers, the deaths of children, and scarlet fever, they remain cheerful, singing things like "Tornadoes are just fresh cool breezes." Andy Eninger, who also directs, wrote the snappy, plucky songs. But the show is funniest when it speculates on the characters' seedy underbellies. Adopted brother Albert (Paul Luikart) is happy as a drug addict (he had trouble with morphine on the show). And in Dori Goldman's capable hands, spinster teacher Eliza Jane Wilder becomes a sex-starved martinet--in one song she's transformed into a pop-star type who shows how seductive she can be.

But ultimately the saintliness and seediness clash instead of blending, making this musical seem more a series of sketches than a cohesive play.

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