Female Problems: An Unhelpful Guide | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Female Problems: An Unhelpful Guide 

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FEMALE PROBLEMS: AN UNHELPFUL GUIDE, Pegasus Players. This production falls into a genre that might be called the muscatoon--a cross between a cartoon and musical cabaret. Based on Nicole Hollander's cartoon strip Sylvia, this uneven but sometimes sharply funny show features mostly short scenes with big shtick. Hollander's characters are known for their witty commentary on the disaffection of modern women, revealing a rare eye for the comedy in the yawning chasm between the real and the ideal. That quick-punch intelligence doesn't always sustain itself in extended cheery musical scenes, however, scored by a variety of composers with lyrics by co-adapter Cheri Coons.

Underdeveloped send-ups of postfeminism, food obsessions, and various self-negating neuroses seem funnier in the newspaper. Somehow, with all the lines being sung in big cheerful tones, it's harder to skim over such depressing jokes as the definition of a woman as someone who loves shoes and worries about her hair. But some of the scenes are musically and culturally smart. An opera about waiting for the gynecologist, in which epic delays spark new relationships among the women in the waiting room, is surprising and fresh. Hollander's fractured fairy tale about the evil queen in "Snow White" is also delightful. Jane Blass is particularly skillful in her various roles, adding a few ironic chords to David Bell's fast-paced, perky direction and choreography.

--Carol Burbank


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