My Dirty Little Secret | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

My Dirty Little Secret 

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Marianna Runge is both the epitome and the antithesis of the Chicago monologuist. Like hordes of her colleagues, she's decided to turn her life story into a performance piece. But while many of her peers merely demonstrate their eagerness to get really upset in front of strangers, Runge thinks her way through her confusing life and leaves the emotional response to the audience. At times this approach feels a bit stiff and stagy, but her candor and intelligence more than compensate. The premise of this hour-long piece is simple. Runge has hidden two aspects of her life from nearly everyone: her devout Catholicism and her work as a phone sex operator. The phenomenal psychic energy she must expend trying to reconcile these contradictory selves would cripple most of us. Since premiering My Dirty Little Secret in August, Runge has brought in Don Regal to help her rewrite the piece, and the result is a tighter, subtler, more sophisticated account of her tumultuous and absurd life. Rather than separating its two sides into distinct acts, she now lets them bleed into each other, which produces a hallucinogenic effect--as when a phone sex caller interrupts her first confession as a young girl. The interweaving of stories gives the evening a richer texture, and the jarring intrusion of one reality into another better conveys Runge's mental state. Best of all, she still uses her experiences to explore the archetypal quests for faith and identity, giving her tiny anecdotes a universal resonance. WNEP Theater, 3209 N. Halsted, 773-296-1100. Through November 30: Saturdays, 10:30 PM. $10.Justin Hayford

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