NO ONE AS NASTY, Victory Gardens Theatre. When a character shares the stage with an alter ego, the counterpart is often smarter, kinder, and funnier. Susan Nussbaum handily upsets this convention in her most recent play, presented as part of Victory Gardens' Access Project. Janet (Lusia Strus) is a drily witty, erudite woman in a wheelchair, but the Janet of her memories (Janelle Snow) is a belligerent woman who curses fluidly and abuses the aides who bathe and dress her. Hence the play's title. Through these two personalities, persuasively conveyed by Strus and Snow, Nussbaum offers her audience an honest, entertaining look at the life of "a crip," as Janet terms herself.
Not every joke sings, and there are a few underdeveloped scenes and curious transitions. But overall the show is impressive. Director Susan V. Booth's talented, versatile cast puts across the play's plentiful jokes without downplaying the conflict between Janet and her caregivers. In particular Patricia Pierre-Antoine is adept as the angry aide/affable friend, while Jesse Weaver and Penelope Walker make their many bit parts memorable. Booth's restraint and her actors' light touch in even the most absurd interludes (such as Janet's dreams about Christopher Reeve and Clark Gable) help blend the play's light moments with the provocative issues it addresses.