Just Playing Me | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Just Playing Me 

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Just Playing Me, Cornservatory. Billed as a parody of one-woman shows, this self-indulgent, tedious piece displays none of Corn Productions' usual campy glee or biting satire. Instead we get Jereme Cullens (P.J. Jenkinson), a former matricidal child star turned B-movie bombshell, punk princess, and successful Christian pop singer. Surrounded by four flamingly gay dancers (with their pouts and poses, Patrick Brooks, Kyle-Jason Schwartz, Joe Urso, and Michael Brandon are the show's highlight), Jereme tells us the story of her awful life in banal songs. (Robert Bouwman and Todd Schaner's lyrics include "I sat inside my playpen / And I watched the world go by / No one there to comfort me / When I started to cry.") The uncredited script also employs clunky monologues ("[Mother] pushed and she pushed, and I'm not talking about on the delivery table") and long, melodramatic lists of words: "Adoration. Bliss. Rock bottom. Hopeless. Legendary. Tragedy. Pain."

Jenkinson, who has a singing voice like a chain-smoking Doris Day and flashes of charisma and subtlety, is simply not given much to work with, and she never finds her inner diva. The music is catchy thanks to composer Scott Lamberty (with help from Chris Maus, Tom Stahl, and Brian Crane). But the jumpy narrative is sometimes confusing, the pacing glacial; directors Bouwman and Sarah Ballema milk each bathetic moment so hard that when Jereme sings, "I can't be what you hoped for," we know exactly what she means.

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