Bustin' Out | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Bustin' Out 

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Bustin' Out, Baum House, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Like a girl stuffing her bra, playwright Karen Begin has shoved the gamut of breast issues into her script. Although nothing is left out, not much is said that's original.

Teased about her underdeveloped chest, 14-year-old Jesse (played with a great mix of romantic dreaminess and adolescent angst by Beth Popelka) looks for a bra that will enhance what little she's got. She learns about the biology of breasts from an inexplicably hyper salesclerk and a nursing mother who feels inadequate. She finds out about breast cancer from another customer and appears in a talk-show audience (with the boisterous Monica Williams as host) to discuss perfect breasts. She also encounters a candidate for breast-reduction surgery.

The ensemble, directed by Andy Wibbels, portrays nearly 20 characters. And almost every one of them is a stereotype. The talk-show guests are a Deadhead, a Casanova, and a geek. A feminist folk singer (whose lyrics are inaudible) is a lesbian. The only honest moment comes when Cupid Hayes and Zach Thomas appear briefly as a couple playfully coming to terms with her postmastectomy body. Unfortunately most of the jokes fall flat in this coming-of-age comedy, which simply rehashes the "it's what's inside that counts" and "use what you have" messages familiar from sex-education classes and Judy Blume books. --Jenn Goddu

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