The Emily Show | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Emily Show


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The Emily Show, WNEP Theater. Jen Ellison is a rare breed of improviser: she hits her comfort zone remarkably quickly, and she's so self-assured she can easily set an audience at ease--or provoke them. She also has a talent for shaping raw material and plumbing the depths of a character, reveling in the sort of nuances that are often overlooked by improvisers rushing to achieve momentum or find yet another laugh line.

Borrowing a page from the experiments in regression by arrested adolescents Paul Reubens and Andy Kaufman, Ellison explores a night in the life of a precocious four-year-old who plays with her toys, tells stories about her ill-fated line of pet hamsters, and chatters incessantly about princesses. Getting the look down perfectly, Ellison wears overalls and pigtails and goes to ridiculous lengths to emulate the frenetic hushed-to-giddy speech patterns of a little kid. Even better, she knows when to depart from her script and rely on audience interaction, offering makeovers and dispensing cheeky psychoanalytic advice.

Still, her ruminations have a lot in common with the white noise of an hour's worth of Teletubbies or Elmo: you may appreciate the sheer goofiness of it all, but eventually you tune it out.

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