The Quick-Change Room (Scenes from a Revolution) | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Quick-Change Room (Scenes from a Revolution) 

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THE QUICK-CHANGE ROOM (SCENES FROM A REVOLUTION), Pendulum Theatre Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre, second-floor studio theater. Playwright Nagle Jackson, who directed Saint Petersburg's Bolshoi Dramatic Theatre, knows the world of his play, as a once-renowned Russian company endures tempestuous changes during the collapse of the Soviet Union. In his delightful tribute to embattled thespians, the details are delicious and the ironies thick as borscht. It's 1991 and Gorbachev has barely survived a coup. There's no soap, inflation has made theater tickets a luxury, and once-subsidized companies must now pay their own way. That means pleasing a shallow free-market public.

An apt symbol for this flux is the quick-change room, where busy dressers help actors change costumes. Here the temperamental, ironically class-conscious artistes of the Kuzlov Theater find themselves divided and conquered by capricious downsizing and idiotic marketing. In the final humiliation, they must turn their signature production of The Three Sisters into a musical comedy.

My Sister features only two sisters, but they do get to Moscow in a feel-good finale (it's the meanest travesty since Springtime for Hitler).

Bill Redding's staging captures all the play's hysteria and much of its hilarity. Among the cunning character turns are Katherine Ripley's predatory ingenue, Carolyn Mlakar as a cruelly upstaged leading lady, and Reid Ostrowski, climbing nimbly from box office to front office. --Lawrence Bommer

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