In the world of Waitress, almost all sins can be forgiven with a song | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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In the world of Waitress, almost all sins can be forgiven with a song

But in the age of #MeToo, is it really OK for a doctor to have an affair with his patient?


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Written by Jessie Nelson, composed by Sara Bareilles, and based on the 2007 movie starring Keri Russell, Waitress is a sweet-as-pie musical about domestic abuse and adultery.

Jenna works at Joe's Pie Diner someplace in the southern-drawl belt, where she waits tables and serves as the resident pie genius, producing baked works of art that express her inner state on any given day. She's unhappily married to Earl, a classic prole ne'er-do-well who puts her down, confiscates her pay, and conveys the promise of violence with his love. When she finds herself pregnant by him, she feels all chance of escape has been foreclosed. She finds some consolation, though, in an affair with her married, male ob-gyn, Dr. Pomatter.

Now, this Equity touring production has a lot to recommend it. Bareilles's score offers all kinds of interesting rhythmic variety while maintaining the tuneful accessibility expected of a Broadway musical. Lorin Latarro's gestural choreography is fun. The leads all know how to endear, particularly Larry Marshall as cantankerous old Joe. And Bryan Fenkart's Pomatter demonstrates a Chaplinesque physicality that's entertaining if out-of-left-field strange. What's more, I kind of like the show's forgiving attitude toward certain loving (and discreet) forms of immorality, embodied in the song "Bad Idea." Woozy acceptance covers a lot sins here.

But my wife couldn't shrug off the notion of a doctor getting intimate with a patient, even if director Diane Paulus stages those intimacies in a way that makes Jenna's willing participation utterly clear. In the time of #MeToo, Pomatter's behavior may need to be confronted with something more than a song.   v

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