Touched by Jayne Mansfield | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Touched by Jayne Mansfield 

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TOUCHED BY JAYNE MANSFIELD, Sweetback Productions, at American Theater Company. David Cerda's nostalgic parody-romp clearly belongs in Sweetback's travesty pantheon. Cerda imagines Jayne Mansfield on a mission from heaven, rescuing a Catholic girls' school from a nefarious plot by fraudulent Pope John Paul George. Though Cerda's score is at odds with the 1973 setting--how many doo-wop musicals would combine the perky anthem "Jesus Is My Boyfriend" with the equally upbeat "I Need an Abortion"?--this stoops-to-conquer laughfest is typically and blissfully unrepentant. Ty Perry's funky choreography would make the Solid Gold Dancers tin with envy, and Cerda pays winking homage to aggressively cute teen flicks like The Trouble With Angels and the TV shows Touched by an Angel and Quantum Leap. There's even a Japanese B-movie effect as Jayne and the Pope fight it out like Godzilla and Mothra.

Usually cast as a titanium-tough diva, Cerda here plays Jayne's faithful companion Mosquito, an invisible talking chihuahua a la Taco Bell. Tracy Repep is simperingly demure as a folksinging one-woman pep rally while her nemesis, played by Ludwig, incarnates slutty abandon as Sister Angie (Dickinson). Giving Sweetback's silly stuff a vast infusion of sweetness, B.C. Kalz's Jayne atones for the play's sometimes clumsy ardor. Her effervescent blond bombshell is a hoot, lip-synching to "God's a Mink Bikini" or breathlessly dreaming of a "Pink World." Cerda clearly treasures Mansfield's memory, and Kalz justifies the tribute.

--Lawrence Bommer

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