My Sister in This House/Bomb My Work | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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My Sister in This House/Bomb My Work

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My Sister in This House, Wing & Groove Theatre, and Bomb My Work, Acquaintances, at Wing & Groove Theatre. Wendy Kesselman's oft-revived one-act (based on the same "crime of the century" Jean Genet addressed in The Maids) reveals the harrowing parallel between the maids and the mistresses in a stuffy townhouse in 1933. Controlling Christine and her malleable younger sister, Lea, are as dependent on each other as their employer's bored daughter is on her smug, cheapskate mother. But the social gulf between the clueless mistresses and the incestuous maids, whose dress-up rituals let them forget they're servants, can be bridged only by bloodshed.

Unfortunately Kesselman makes the carnage seem just a very bad night for the sisters. A glass breaks, the iron overheats and burns a chemise, and the electricity fails; rather than be blamed for all this mayhem, they decide to kill their ladies. And instead of reveling in the banality of murder, director Bryan White tries to prove, not always convincingly, that there's more at stake. As cold-eyed Christine, Autumn Lakosky-Drexler harbors hate well, while Molly Meehan's Lea--just a blank slate for the playwright or historian--is comparatively compassionate. Mired in unearned privilege, Christy Arington's matron is a monument to middle-class mediocrity and entrenched ignorance, and as her fecklessly rebellious daughter, Jessica Luukkonen both knows and resents her place.

Sharing the Wing & Groove space is Bomb My Work. The title of this late-night sketch-comedy offering spoofs crazed artists who'd rather see artistic than human sacrifice during wartime. But confusing an artist's solipsism with pacifism is only one of several crude intellectual gambits in this hit-and-miss 40-minute show. Another misfire is a scene in which kidnap and rape victim Elizabeth Smart misses her captor's shackles. (It's never late enough for this stuff.) Sketches with easy targets--like an intervention for an asshole and granny panties as birth control--end limply. The five Acquaintances are stronger in lifestyle spoofs: a pouty, overearnest sorority-house meeting is "all about respect," and bitter receptionists dish the dirt about anyone who enters their waiting room. Here Jason Williams handles rage well.

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