Uninvited Guest: the Freedom Show | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Uninvited Guest: the Freedom Show

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Uninvited Guest: the Freedom Show, Second City, Donny's Skybox Studio. Dionna Griffin's late-night confessional about her stint in federal prison--she unwittingly participated in a drug conspiracy--is earnest and occasionally touching but lacks the essential elements of drama: plot, character, and momentum. Griffin (playing herself) goes directly from naive and terrified--the fall girl for a manipulative boyfriend--to savvy and determined, never showing the process of transformation. Her fellow prisoners are all harmless victims like herself; there are no betrayals or surprises. The women's performances are appealing, but the men are ciphers or traitors: even the protagonist's defense lawyer is in the boyfriend's pocket. These may have been the facts, but onstage they're unpersuasive and polemical.

Griffin and director Nancy Hayden choose to present this serious material Second City style, in musical-comic sketches. The intention to leaven a serious subject is admirable, but comedy requires distance and Griffin's script allows none. There are some droll scenes of improv classes in prison and one memorable number, "A Hundred and One Things to Do With a Maxipad." But ultimately the piece's therapeutic purpose overwhelms its artistic purpose: theater is supposed to provide catharsis for the audience as well as the author.

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