Are You Happy? | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Are You Happy? 

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In her last one-woman show, This Girl I Knew, Marcia Wilkie pretty much pushed confessional monologues to the limit. Eliminating any shred of artifice in her act, she performed her sweet, funny autobiographical stories in a style so comfortable, relaxed, and off-the-cuff it was hard to believe the show was scripted at all. Most of the tales in Are You Happy? take this trademark form, though the material is slightly darker and richer: Wilkie discusses her panic attacks on the road, her love of women's rugby, her fear that she's lost her self in the bustle of modern life. But the other part of the bill, in which she plays other people--a beleaguered mom coming unhinged in traffic, for instance--reveals that there's more to Wilkie as an actor and writer, that she's not just another narcissist with the gift of gab. In "Never Saw the Ocean," for example, she convincingly plays a woman in her 80s--strengths, foibles, and all--without resorting to the usual stooped-backed, shuffling cliches. Of course, Wilkie has always been an empathic performer, but in this show she proves just how sensitive an observer of life she truly is. Live Bait Theater, 3914 N. Clark, 871-1212. Through September 24: Thursdays-Sundays, 8 PM. $12.

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