You Might As Well Live | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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You Might As Well Live

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Any new musical that can boast "lyrics by Dorothy Parker" is off to a running start. At the time of her death in 1967, Parker--the only original female member of the celebrated Algonquin Round Table's "vicious circle"--left a treasure trove of light verse, much of it first published in Vogue, Vanity Fair, and the New Yorker. With its bouncy rhythms and cleverly rhymed couplets, this material is well suited to the classic American show-tune style, as composer Norman Mathews proves in You Might as Well Live, one of eight works in progress being showcased in "Stages 2003." Mathews's jazzy settings highlight the mix of urbane wit, anxious yearning, and satiric gallows humor that makes Parker's ruminations on sexual folly and emotional dependency as fresh today as when they were written in the 1920s and '30s. (The show's title comes from "Resume," Parker's droll account of her own suicide attempts: "Guns aren't lawful; / Nooses give; / Gas smells awful; / You might as well live.") Having only listened to a demo CD of the show, I can't say how well it stands up as a whole, but the score is packed with delicious new numbers in the sassy, sophisticated vein of Porter, Sondheim, and Rodgers and Hart. This weekend's concert rendition stars Chicago-bred Broadway chanteuse Karen Mason (Sunset Boulevard, Torch Song Trilogy, Mamma Mia!), who brings to her performances an exceptionally rich voice, crisp comic timing, brilliant dramatic phrasing, and captivating warmth and honesty. Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, 773-327-5252. Friday, August 8, 7:30 PM. $75 (includes 6 PM buffet reception). Then Saturday, August 9, 3:30 PM. $15.

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