The Life and Times of Tulsa Lovechild: A Road Trip, CollaborAction Theatre Company, at Chicago Dramatists. Greg Owens's play, making its midwest premiere in this CollaborAction production, fills the road-trip story's quota of ironic reversals at the very start, when we learn that the proprietor of Bob's American Motel is a Russian emigre enamored of interstates and that a child was born there 30 years earlier and named by her mother Tulsa Lovechild. It's now 2001, and Tulsa has returned to her birthplace to scatter the ashes of her parent, in accordance with that lady's dying wish.
Tulsa is not the only one converging on this Oklahoma way station. Also present are a Hollywood pretty boy in search of the meaning of life, a would-be Miss America evading a devoted boyfriend, and a pair of conjoined twins on the run from a cult leader recently gunned down by a U.S. Treasury agent. We also hear from Tulsa's deceased hippie mom, war-casualty birth father, and ultraright stepdad.
Owens's narrative has more loose ends than Route 66 has potholes. But his invocation of freedom, fresh beginnings, and wide open spaces is seductive. And under Kimberly Senior's direction, the personnel in this production are engaging, especially Kati Brazda as the spunky heroine. We end up willing to suspend whatever disbelief is necessary to bring these characters to happy endings--or at least promising embarkations on new roads.
--Mary Shen Barnidge