Sally and Marsha | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Yugen Theatre, at Zebra Crossing Theatre.

Marsha is city, Sally is country. Still, they have things in common: mostly-absent families they profess to love (Marsha gingerly and Sally obsessively), a guilt-inducing parent or parent figure (Marsha a dominating mother, Sally an oh-so-perfect sister-in-law), and secret dreams (Marsha wants to get her degree, Sally wants to be rich). Plus both are bored, insecure, and indeed downright pitiful. But these two lonely housewives nurture each other with girlish rituals (munching cookies and dirty-dancing to hot disco music), womanly rituals (talking about sex), and motherly rituals (baking pies and practicing Lamaze). Eventually Marsha is on her way to fulfilling her ambitions, and Sally has come to accept the futility of hers.

Yugen Theatre, under the inventive direction of Lynn Ann Bernatowicz, struggles mightily to stem the tide of soapsuds engulfing Sally and Marsha, Sybille Pearson's 1985 hymn to female bonding. Michele DiMaso's Sally froths with cute 'n' cuddly effervescence, and Barbara Barrows's Marsha withdraws to the point of occasional inaudibility. But their valiant efforts only make the emptiness and artificiality of this hankie wringer more obvious.

Yugen pulled off a near-miraculous rescue with its recent production of Megan Terry's Calm Down, Mother, but they can't repeat the feat here. More careful script selection might eliminate the need for such heroic measures--and anyway, this talented and innovative ensemble deserves better.

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