Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes

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TEN TINY FINGERS, NINE TINY TOES, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, at Organic Theater Company Greenhouse. Sue Townsend's Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes is one of those paranoid political works like Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale or Steve Tesich's Square One that posit a dystopic future in which all our worst tendencies bear fruit. In Townsend's England yet to come the British class system has turned Hindu in its rigidity, with the government poking its fingers into even the most private matters, telling couples if and when they can start a family and what gender their child can be.

What saves this play, about two pregnant women from different castes who run afoul of the authorities, from becoming tiresome antigovernment hectoring is Townsend's flair for satire. She leavens even her harshest political points with comedy, as when a hospital worker is thrown into an anxiety attack because her mother refuses to die on schedule.

Not everyone in Karen Kessler's uneven production is capable of bringing out this humor. Tara Mallen and Robert Kahn, as a hopelessly middle-class couple, start the play off on the wrong foot, reading their lines so loudly and broadly they squash the wit. But a third of the way into this 90-minute one-act the always funny Maggie Carney enters as a hospital orderly and earns so many laughs she lifts the play.

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