The Barbara Walters Interviews | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Barbara Walters Interviews

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THE BARBARA WALTERS INTERVIEWS, Factory Theater. Jenny Kirkland's one-act starts with a clever idea but ends up a histrionic bore. A wacky love story about two ordinary misfits with goofy fantasies, the play revolves around a shy girl who likes to pretend she's a shallow superstar being interviewed by Barbara Walters. Surrounding her are several loud, clownishly malevolent characters, sideshow cartoons who sometimes interact with her and sometimes interrupt her romance with John, a closet Tom Jones impersonator. The Barbara Walters Interviews is a muddle, part sitcom and part Jerry Lewis movie.

The production has multiple problems. The story moves fitfully in short scenes with sudden and arbitrary resolutions, separated by blackouts that feel longer and longer as the night wears on. The tone veers between saccharine realism and screwy comedy--and sometimes Factory aims for both, with a disturbing self-congratulatory heartiness. Except for Kirkland, who plays the lead character, and Mike Beyer, who plays John, the actors are saddled with cardboard stereotypes. They all shout and mug with perky gusto whether the scene merits it or not, blasting the limits of the tiny Factory Theater space. It's as if director Patricia Sutherland were urging her cast to work louder and faster to make up for the play's shortcomings. Too bad it just seems shriller, lamer, and sloppier.

--Carol Burbank

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