Stags and Hens | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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STAGS AND HENS, Terrapin Theatre, at Live Bait Theater. Powerfully presented here a decade ago by the now-defunct BDI 361 Theater, this crackling script by Willy Russell (author of Educating Rita) is well worth reviving. Like its equally bittersweet counterparts--Eric Bogosian's SubUrbia, Mike Leigh's Ecstasy, John Godber's Bouncers--this 1978 ensemble piece simmers with the conflicts of postteenagers scared of the future and wary of the opposite sex.

Russell had the brilliant idea of alternating scenes in the men's and women's loos (or "bogs") of a Liverpool nightclub (grungily reproduced here by Robert G. Smith). Sheltered from the sexual minefield outside, male and female friends plot strategy and swap stories, unaware that they've thrown separate stag and hen parties for an unhappy couple. Dave, the groom to be, has passed out in his puke; Linda, his reluctant fiancee, is catching sparks from an old flame who's now a hot London rock musician. This is inspired eavesdropping, with bitchy anecdotes and poisonous advice--wicked variations on a theme of postadolescent insecurity. Saddest of all is how hard these bridesmaids and ushers work to save a marriage destined for disaster.

Though their accents are a bit shaky, Brad Nelson Winters's 12 cast members are synchronized like a fireworks display. The strongest showings come from Eric Johner as the smoothly superior local boy made big, Clay Calvin as his resentful chum, and Sara Walsh as the bossy queen hen.

--Lawrence Bommer

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