My Life as a Blonde | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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My Life as a Blonde

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"There are two kinds of women," Gina Lombardi's dissolute mother tells her. "Those who know how to make an entrance--and those who don't." Gina's mother is Kansas Winters, a wannabe Hollywood actress from Kansas City turned alcoholic porn star. Having a mother like Kansas, who matches her drinks to her dresses--pink chiffon means a pink lady--dooms Gina from the get-go. At 15 she starts having sex with her mother's boyfriends: "They weren't the ethical elite," she says. "They were men with mustaches." A few years later she gets a job in a strip club and goes blonde, like her mother before her. Her life goes downhill from there. Writer-performer Ilana Manaster in her melancholy solo show delves deeply into Gina's seedy world through sharply written monologues and one-person scenes. Using wigs, accents, and body language, Manaster creates not only the world-weary Kansas and her bright, hopeful, deluded daughter but also a straight-talking stripper, one of Kansas's seedy boyfriends, and several others. Well-integrated film clips help flesh out the story and add a spark of realism. We see a nervous Kansas in 1967, stumbling through her first screen test. Kansas showing off her first home with wide, proud gestures--then showing off her body as a nascent porn actress. And Gina laughing uncontrollably as she gets married by a justice of the peace. Manaster's story of emptiness and lonely struggle feels real and heartbreaking--as does the surly but thoughtful redemption Gina finally earns. Chicago Cultural Center, studio theater, 78 E. Washington, 773-274-6660. Through October 11: Friday-Saturday, 7 PM. $12.

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