The Wal*Mart-ians | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Wal*Mart-ians 

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The Wal*Mart-ians, Boxer Rebellion Theater. There are some uproariously funny moments in this broad comedy, written and directed by Steven Young. It's the 70th birthday of peevish matriarch Jan Gunter (the feisty Jeanie Grace), and her daughters, Gina and Lorraine, have dragged their families to their mother's Iowa farm (perfectly rendered by set designer Jim Boley) to ensure their places in the will. Gina is an uptight woman with a penchant for pills married to a petulant actor with a mentally handicapped daughter (a hilarious Jennifer Willison) who spouts pop-culture and Apocalypse Now references. Lorraine is a deluded former beauty contest runner-up with a voracious appetite married to a hard-of-hearing former military man; their child is DB, a straight-talking lesbian who brings along her teenage fiancee. Rounding out the party is the lecherous Pastor Verbal (boldly portrayed by Tony Peterson).

Bringing these characters together allows for some amusing confrontations, but unfortunately the show veers wildly from one shtick to the next. While the cat burial and religious conversion work well, other scenes--the grocery price comparison and an ode to Wal-Mart--falter. The cast is so focused on selling the laughs that Young's sporadic serious conjectures about family, self-destructive behavior, and the contemporary threat of extinction seem completely incongruous. If this script is going to survive as anything more than a fitfully funny farce, it needs further evolution.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Janet Tuegel.

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