The Vile Governess and Other Psychodramas | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Vile Governess and Other Psychodramas


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THE VILE GOVERNESS AND OTHER PSYCHODRAMAS, Mom and Dad Productions, at the Playground. Well-executed parody transforms the serious into the frivolous yet remains true to the style and form of the original. The Vile Governess and Other Psychodramas, supposedly spoofing Henrik Ibsen, does neither particularly well. Playwright Stewart Lemoine's three one-acts might as well be parodies of Chekhov or Strindberg--or any other turn-of-the-century playwright, for that matter.

Interspersed among the detritus are occasional moments of clarity. Lemoine cleverly lampoons Ibsen's unique brand of protofeminism, and he uncovers the sexual innuendo directly beneath the surface in most of his works. But for the most part Lemoine's references to Ibsen are too oblique to be effective, and there's too little contrast within the show for it to be funny. None of these one-acts can stand alone. The bone-dry love-triangle pieces--"Sinners Three" and "The Bad and the Sick"--are only 20 minutes each, yet they drone on far too long. And "The Vile Governess," about a vengeful nanny who tortures an unsuspecting family, is an aimless, convoluted mess.

Director Frank Walters compounds the problem by staging these plays as exaggerated penny dreadfuls. Of course, some problems are to be expected with scripts this wretched. But even disregarding the overblown acting and dropped cues, Mom and Dad Productions still looks like a dime-store operation. --Nick Green

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