Etta Jenks | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Etta Jenks 

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Etta Jenks, Paz/Suarez Bubblegum Productions, at Profiles Theatre. Marlane Meyer sets her 1986 play in the tawdry world of triple-X-rated movies, but her many references to Darwin's theories of evolution (one character asked to describe a pretty girl says, "She has long arms and a big head") suggest a metaphor for ruthless materialism: the able-bodied here taunt and manipulate the crippled, human beings are "meat" for "business," and money is the only motive and the only reward for survival. Imposing such weighty philosophy on so flimsy a milieu can create a hodgepodge of dissonant motifs. But Paz/Suarez Bubblegum director Marta Suarez opts to ignore the metaphysical aspects of Meyer's script, and what her staging may lose in complexity, it gains in coherence.

In any case, actors portraying the porn industry's archetypes must work hard to produce engaging if unpleasant characters. But Coya Paz in the title role takes a textual comment--to the effect that emotions never show on Etta's face--as a cue to excise virtually all expression from her voice too, and most of the cast follow her example. Exceptions are Joe Dalpiaz's firmly grounded portrait of a skin scout (at one point his partner declares him to be "too slimy not to leave a trail") and Scott O'Conner's slyly sexy hit man.

--Mary Shen Barnidge


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