Little House on the Parody | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Little House on the Parody 

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Little House on the Parody, Single Box Turn Productions, at the Playground Theater. Successfully spoofing a TV series requires a story that both insiders and outsiders can follow and actors who can mimic the physical, vocal, and emotional qualities of the original characters. This musical handles the former pretty well: playwrights Becky Eldridge and Amy Petersen pick and choose from series highlights to weave a relatively coherent tale evoking the childhood rivalries and family hardships of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books. The play zeroes in on the TV drama's high sugar content and hyper-Christianity and stretches certain elements--sister Mary's blindness, brother Albert's morphine addiction, little sister Carrie's mental challenges--to gleefully wicked effect.

Other liberties taken with the characters are not so appealing. Only one cast member--Ed Jones as the overbearing Mrs. Oleson--nails his role with every henpeck and simper. Other actors depart drastically from the originals to accommodate the plot twists, which works when the variation is based on a recognizable personality trait--Megan Hovde's deadpan, stumbling Carrie--but otherwise irritates, such as Dori Goldman's shrieking horndog of a spinster schoolteacher. Among the rest of the cast, some capture the essentials (Lis Bill, Pat Shay, Eldridge, and Amy Starks as Ma, Pa, Laura, and Mary Ingalls) while for others (Petersen as Nellie Oleson) the resemblance fails to extend beyond the hairstyle. A marathon session of Little House reruns might do this cast a world of good.

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