The Girl in the Flammable Skirt | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Girl in the Flammable Skirt

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The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, Palio Productions, at the Side Studio. The Aimee Bender short stories adapted for this program are about illusions in romance, the pressure of taking care of a parent, facing loss when love changes, and finding freedom in happenstance. And Bender's voice is still evident in Ellen O'Keefe's adaptations of these strange tales, about cat burglars in love or a man devolving before his lover's eyes to an ape and then to a one-celled wonder. But the stories' themes and much of their humor are lost in this dull show, which O'Keefe also directs.

The dialogue is stilted, and we can easily pick out the verbatim excerpts from Bender's works. There's little character development, and the action is minimal: O'Keefe isn't up to transforming inner monologues into short plays for multiple characters, except for a brief moment in "The Ring." Fleshing out Bender's first-person account, O'Keefe provides the show's biggest burst of energy when two biohazard guys (Dustin Grove and Dan Hickey) take the stage.

More rehearsal time might have yielded better acting, a better thought-out staging, and smoother technical transitions. But as it stands, Bender's stories have much more personality on the page than on this stage.

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