Shake Your Grove Thing | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Shake Your Grove Thing

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SHAKE YOUR GROOVE THING, Griffin Theatre Company. Playwright William Massolia and director Richard Barletta's overlong look at love and loss at the tail end of the disco era recalls the dance records of the time: thin but diverting material is padded into something tediously predictable. The story, inspired by Restoration playwright Aphra Behn's The Rover, follows a circle of friends through three evenings over nearly a year in a midwestern disco--from New Year's Eve 1979 to the day after Ronald Reagan's 1980 election as president. The characters include a pill-popping party girl; a naive lawyer turned coffeehouse owner; a coke-snorting TV actor; a self-denigrating woman with an unfaithful fiance; her man-shy sister, whose old boyfriend gave her the clap; and a nerd who's joined a "celibacy support group." Chasing after one another rather aimlessly, they muddle their way from one relationship to the next in between extended episodes of disco line-dancing to records by the likes of Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer. (Heather Haneman provided the snappy choreography.)

The actors are attractive and give their roles a relaxed realism, but they can't make us care about these banal people, whose generic problems (infidelity, fear of commitment, etc) are resolved with a trite sentimentality that doesn't even rise to the level of feel-good. If Shake Your Groove Thing is trying to emulate the shallowest, most escapist aspects of late-70s pop culture, it succeeds all too well.

--Albert Williams

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