Jackie & Jenn's Whirlwind Crimestopping Spree | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Jackie & Jenn's Whirlwind Crimestopping Spree 

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JACKIE & JENN'S WHIRLWIND CRIMESTOPPING SPREE, at Live Bait Theater. Jackie Volk and Jennifer Biddle, two writer-performers, have paired up to perform six monologues about criminal activity and moral sneakiness, addressing such subjects as child molestation, arson, street violence, and family quarrels. Director Jay Paul Skelton does a workmanlike job of blending their strikingly different styles and concerns, but the evening is a bit unwieldy. While both performers come across as admirably vulnerable in these intimate, risky monologues, Biddle's wit and relaxed, controlled physical performance carry the show.

Although her writing has some depth, Volk's snide cynicism and stiff-bodied aggression make all three of her characters seem the same bitter, self-abasing person. She starts each monologue at a peak of energy impossible to maintain and tiring to observe and falls regularly into metaphoric excess. By contrast, Biddle's acting is fluid and naturalistic, and her characters are smart and often surprising. Biddle's quirky, intelligent perspective and skillfully crafted scripts compensate when her monologues run a bit long. And she has a strong sense of irony, at one point describing a child's view of Judgment Day as "a spiritual version of changing for gym class." The same metaphor applies to these semiautobiographical, sometimes fantastical monologues, which expose both what's best and what's most awkward about the performers. --Carol Burbank

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